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Aide: Arafat suffers brain hemorrhage

Egypt offers site for funeral service


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Yasser Arafat is shown at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah in September.
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Retirement is a rarity among Arab leaders.

Hospital officials say Yasser Arafat is in a deeper coma.

Arafat's wife, Suha, lashes out at Palestinian officials.
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Yasser Arafat

(CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has suffered a brain hemorrhage, according to a top aide.

Al-Tayyeb Abdel Raheem told reporters Tuesday that Palestinian officials in Ramallah are in close contact with colleagues in Paris, France, where Arafat, 75, has been hospitalized since October 29.

"[Palestinian Authority] President Arafat deteriorated since last night. ... He has a blood hemorrhage in the head," said Raheem through a translator. "All efforts are being presented by our friends the French doctors to stop this blood hemorrhage."

In the West Bank, Palestinian sources told CNN that if Arafat dies, he probably will be buried at his compound in Ramallah, the Muqataa, which is also headquarters of the Palestinian Authority. Arafat has been confined there for the past three years.

"Muqataa became the symbol ... [It] was the presidential compound, the president's place of siege for the past three years," Raheem said.

The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported Wednesday morning that Israel has agreed to allow the Palestinian Authority to bury Arafat at the Muqataa.

Egypt has offered to hold a funeral service in Cairo for Arafat, allowing Arab and Muslim leaders to gather to mourn the Palestinian leader.

The Egyptian funeral plans were first reported by the Yemeni state-run news agency SABA late Tuesday. They were confirmed by an Egyptian government official in an interview with the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera.

After the service, Arafat's body would be flown on an Egyptian government helicopter to his Ramallah compound, where he would be buried, SABA reported.

The Israeli Cabinet plans to hold a security meeting Wednesday morning to discuss Arafat's funeral arrangements, a senior Israeli political source told CNN.

Earlier Tuesday in Paris, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei was permitted to see Arafat briefly, Palestinian officials said.

Qorei was part of a Palestinian delegation that arrived in Paris on Monday. The delegation was at Percy Military Hospital for two hours, but only Qorei was allowed to see Arafat.

In a phone interview with CNN, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath said Qorei told the delegation that the Palestinian leader is in a coma in critical condition, "but that he is fully alive, and his brain, his heart, his lungs are fully functioning."

Earlier, a hospital spokesman said Arafat's condition grew worse Tuesday, and he slipped into a deeper coma.

Despite an earlier public dispute between Arafat's wife, Suha, and the Palestinian delegation over whether delegation members would visit with the ailing leader, Sha'ath said Suha Arafat embraced all members of the delegation.

"She walked hand in hand with [Qorei] into the president's room, and walked out with him," he said.

The delegation postponed a planned trip over the weekend after Suha Arafat, 41, made an emotional phone call to Al-Jazeera, in which she accused the Palestinian leadership of conspiring against her husband.

But after a meeting early Monday, the leadership decided to go ahead with its trip. In addition to Qorei and Sha'ath, the delegation included former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who is now the acting head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Speaker of the Parliament Rawhi Fattuh, who would replace Arafat on an interim basis for 60 days if Arafat dies or is declared to be permanently incapacitated.

The Palestinian delegation also met with top French officials, including President Jacques Chirac, who pledged his support to the Palestinians.

Sha'ath said Tuesday the Palestinian delegation also met with Arafat's doctors, and said that hospital tests have "ruled out totally" conspiracy theories that have suggested that Arafat's illness was brought on by poisoning.

It's not clear what his diagnosis is, Sha'ath said, but doctors have also ruled out cancer.

Sha'ath said there is no talk of removing Arafat from life support.

"We are not really believers in euthanasia. The man is not suffering; he is in a coma ... It's out of the question that anybody is thinking of taking any such decisions," he said.

Sha'ath also told reporters that top Islamic cleric Taissir Dayut Tamimi was on his way to Paris to be with Arafat. The cleric's presence, Palestinian sources in Ramallah said, is required for an Islamic declaration of death -- one that would be issued out of respect for Arafat, but also to prevent any questions being raised about the circumstances of the Palestinian leader's eventual death.

Suha Arafat, who was once Arafat's secretary and married him in 1990, was raised as a Christian and converted to Islam before marrying. She and her husband have a 9-year-old daughter, Zahwa.

CNN's Jim Bittermann and Fionnuala Sweeney in Paris and Michael Holmes in Ramallah contributed to this report.


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