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Aide: Arafat to enter to Paris hospital

Palestinian leader weak, exhausted, aide says
Arafat smiles with his doctors and bodyguards in a photo released by the Palestinian Authority Thursday.
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CNN's John Vause on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's health.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat talks about Arafat's health.
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Yasser Arafat

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Ailing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has agreed to his doctors' recommendation and will go to Paris, France, for treatment, an aide said Thursday.

Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said Arafat will be taken Friday to Jordan by helicopter, where he will be placed aboard a French aircraft for the flight to Paris.

It will be Arafat's first excursion from his Ramallah compound since 2002 when Israel confined him to his West Bank quarters.

Earlier, Arafat expressed reluctance about leaving his home. His aides have said in the past that he feared the Israeli army would raid his headquarters in his absence.

Senior aide Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Arafat is exhausted, weak, and has been unable to keep down any food for the last 15 days. He is receiving fluids intravenously.

The Israeli government said Thursday it would not bar Arafat from returning to his compound after receiving medical treatment.

"If ... the doctors say that he needs to be transferred to a certain hospital and then be returned back, Israel will not impose any conditions, Israel will not impose any restrictions," Raanan Gissin, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told CNN.

"As with regards to the future ... that's a separate issue." In the past, Israel has said it could not guarantee Arafat's safe return if he left his compound.

The Israeli decision came after Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei called his Israeli counterpart Thursday morning, asking for and receiving approval for any medical assistance that might be needed.

Gissin said Sharon "has issued instructions to provide any medical assistance necessary -- and that includes teams of doctors that will be arriving."

Israel had confined Arafat to his compound for nearly three years, accusing him of provoking suicide bombings, charges he denies.

Unknown ailment

One aide familiar with Arafat's condition said there had been a "breakdown" in the white cell count of Arafat's blood. He gave no further details.

Aides said Arafat was dozing. At times he wakes but sometimes suffers from memory loss and is unable to recognize people, even his bodyguards and personal staff, they said.

Video footage released Thursday shows Arafat dressed in powder blue pajamas and a dark knit cap sitting in a chair and talking to aides.

Aides said a report he had been able to attend prayers earlier in the day was untrue.

Rudeineh denied reports that the 75-year-old Palestinian Authority president had lapsed into unconsciousness.

Palestinian officials have said at different times that Arafat was suffering from a bad stomach flu, a virus and gall stones.

Doctors have run a battery of tests on Arafat but have been unable to determine exactly what is wrong with him, Rudeineh said.

An Arab source who is in close touch with Arafat's inner circle told CNN Wednesday the fear is that Arafat may be suffering from an ailment of the blood or digestive systems.

Jordanian doctors, including Arafat's personal physician, Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi, arrived Thursday from Amman and were with Arafat.

Egyptian, Tunisian and Palestinian doctors also have been treating Arafat.

Contingency plans

Arafat's wife, Suha, who lives in Tunis with their young daughter, arrived in Ramallah Thursday evening.

Arafat remains the symbol of Palestinian aspirations for an independent state. Who would take over for him if he is unable to govern and who would succeed him if he dies remained unclear.

According to the central committee of Arafat's Fatah movement, Arafat Wednesday said he wanted to name former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as his deputy.

There were also reports, which Rudeineh denied, that Arafat had created a special committee of three senior Palestinian officials to run Palestinian affairs until he recovers.

According to current Palestinian law, if Arafat were to die, he would be succeeded by the speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, Rouhi Fattouh, and elections would be held within 60 days.

In Jerusalem, Sharon held security consultations on the latest developments regarding Arafat's health and received "a comprehensive and exhaustive intelligence briefing," his office said.

Sharon instructed Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to conduct a comprehensive security assessment of the situation immediately.

The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported the Israel Defense Forces Central Command was discussing a number of scenarios in the event Arafat dies.

According to the report, Israeli officials fear that the Palestinian territories will fall into chaos, that the Palestinians will blame Arafat's death on Israel, and that attacks on Israelis will increase.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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