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Palestinian officials to visit Arafat

Wife accuses delegation of trying to 'bury him alive'

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Yasser Arafat

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian leaders planned to visit Yasser Arafat on Monday at the hospital in Paris, France, where he has been in a coma since at least Friday.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei and Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Mahmoud Abbas will travel to Paris on Monday, said Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian foreign minister.

But in an emotional statement to the Arabic-language news network Al-Jazeera, Arafat's wife, Suha, said the delegation wanted "to bury him alive."

Suha Arafat told Palestinians that her husband's would-be "inheritors" were coming.

"I want the Palestinian people to be aware of the scope of this conspiracy. They want to bury him alive," she said.

There was no immediate reaction to her remarks from Palestinian officials.

Shaath said on CNN's "Late Edition" that the 75-year-old Palestinian leader's coma is "reversible."

"We do not know what is the reason for this coma and when will he come out of it," Shaath said.

He said Arafat's vital organs are "fine," and he has no damage to his brain, liver or other organ. "There is no regression, there is no deterioration in any of his vital organs, but he remains in a coma."

Arafat was sedated for certain medical procedures, "but it appears that he is still in that state of loss of full consciousness," Shaath said. "The monitors show that everything else is fine. The doctors feel that it is reversible."

Shaath said he did not speak directly to the doctors but spoke with Palestinian officials who did.

Access to Arafat is limited, and the hospital itself has said little since his arrival.

On Friday, Leila Shahid, the PLO representative in Paris, said Arafat's coma was initially induced by doctors.

Then Saturday, sources close to Palestinian leaders said Arafat was being kept in a coma to prevent him from moving and damaging inflamed vital organs.

Saturday night, Arafat's media adviser, Nabil Abu Rudainah, said Arafat was "not in a coma," adding that he was "in stable condition" and sleeping in the intensive care unit.

But Sunday, a source close to senior Palestinian officials said Arafat had been in a coma since Wednesday, and that it was not medically induced.

The source said Arafat is on a respirator, and that an MRI scan showed his brain functioning well. However, that same source said Arafat's death was only a matter of time.

The cause of Arafat's illness remains unclear.

Security plans

With Arafat out of the region, Palestinian security officials in Ramallah agreed to increase patrols in the West Bank while Palestinian forces in Gaza began similar patrols after a meeting there Saturday.

The security meetings have been aimed at keeping the peace and national unity while Arafat is hospitalized.

Officials fear Arafat's death could spark major violence.

In Ramallah, Qorei convened a meeting of the Satha central committee of the Palestinian Authority following Sunday's security meeting.

Qorei, arriving under heavy guard, met with representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the major security organizations. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist groups. Islamic Jihad and the military wing of Hamas have admitted to terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Israel and the United States consider them terrorist organizations.

"It was a very important meeting. It may be the first of its kind where the government, the legislative council and heads of security forces have met with leaders of national and Islamic movements," said Qorei, who also met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.

"It was held under the banner in faithfulness to the leading brother, President Yasser Arafat," Qorei said.

Those attending the meeting drafted a letter calling for all political factions in Gaza to be involved in major decision-making. A follow-up committee was formed.

The Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee also met to discuss how the Palestinian Authority should run on a day-to-day basis.

The Palestinian Authority's basic succession law calls for the parliament speaker to serve as acting president for 60 days until an election can be held.

International representatives, including Norwegians and Americans, have also met with Palestinian officials.

Sensitive issue

Two U.S. officials said Arafat's family would not take him off life support or declare him dead until burial arrangements are worked out, but Palestinian officials insisted no burial negotiations were going on.

Israel has rejected Arafat's family's request for a Jerusalem burial, saying Arafat is a terrorist. French, Israeli, and Egyptian officials have consulted with Arafat's family and aides to discuss other possibilities.

One possibility that's been discussed is a burial in Egypt. Arafat was born in Egypt, though he once claimed to have been born in Jerusalem. Gaza is also a possibility. Arafat's father and sister are buried near the Khan Yunis refugee camp in central Gaza.

Shaath told CNN that any talk of burial is premature. Talk of burial "lacks the dignity that should be given to a man of Mr. Arafat's stature," he said. "At this time we're concerned with his recovery rather than with his burial."

CNN's Michael Holmes contributed to this report

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