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    Nov. 8, 2004 8:32 | Updated Nov. 8, 2004 12:57
    Rift between Suha Arafat, Palestinian leadership

    The Palestinian Cabinet, holding an emergency meeting in the Mukata compound Monday, decided that a visit to Yasser Arafat by a Palestinian delegation should take place, regardless of harsh accusations made by Suha Arafat, who charged that they are traveling to Paris with plans to "bury Arafat alive."

    A delegation of Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, PLO Secretary-General Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath might decide to go to France "in the next few hours," Palestinian officials said.

    The delegation members meant to go to Paris, where Arafat is hospitalized, to consult with Suha and doctors about Arafat's health condition.

    In a screaming telephone call from Arafat's hospital bedside, Suha told pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television that she was issuing "an appeal to the Palestinian people."

    "Let it be known to the honest Palestinian people that a bunch of those who want to inherit are coming to Paris," she shouted in Arabic.

    "You have to realize the size of the conspiracy. I tell you they are trying to bury Abu Ammar alive," she continued, using Arafat's nom de guerre. "He is all right and he is going home."

    Suha, 41, lives in Paris and has not been to the West Bank or had not seen her husband since the latest round of violence began in 2000.

    A producer from Al-Jazeera told The Associated Press they were confident it was Suha on the phone. She first called the network's Ramallah office and then its headquarters in Qatar.

    Suha's allegations sent shock waves throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian political analyst Zacharia al-Qaq told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that "the battle of succession has started while Arafat is still alive. Now it's out in the open and we are likely to see assassinations and settling of account."

    Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a close aide to Arafat, issued a statement strongly condemning Suha for her allegations: "Suha does not represent the Palestinian Authority or the Palestinian people. Yasser Arafat belongs to all the Palestinian people, not just to his family."

    Suha has so far refused to allow most Palestinian officials accompanying her to visit Arafat. "She's holding the president hostage, and many people don't like the way she is handling the whole affair," a senior Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post.

    He said that in the first two days of Arafat's hospitalization, Suha allowed only three of his associates to see him - Ramzi Khoury, director of Arafat's office, Nasser Kudwa, his nephew, and Yussef Abdallah, his personal bodyguard.

    "On the third day she refused to allow anyone to enter Arafat's room, and that's why no one knows exactly what's happening with him," the official added. "She's actually in full control. Since then no one has seen Arafat."

    Former security minister Mohammed Dahlan, who flew with Arafat to Paris, was also denied access to the Palestinian leader. Dahlan is expected to return home on Monday to brief the Palestinian leadership on the latest developments surrounding Arafat's health and to complain about Suha's behavior.

    "Dahlan decided to leave Paris because he's fed up with Suha," a source close to him said. "Suha has been fighting with most of the Palestinian officials over the past week because she won't allow anyone to see Arafat or talk to his doctors. She has also banned the doctors from releasing any statement about Arafat's health. This is outrageous."

    Some Palestinians have complained Suha Arafat has gained too much power, as she controls the flow of information about Arafat's condition, and is also is widely believed to have control of vast funds collected by the PLO.

    Palestinian officials refused to confirm or deny reports that Arafat could be moved to a hospital in Cairo within the next 24 hours. They also denied a report that Arafat was suffering from liver failure.

    "There is no basis of truth for reports that we want to move him from Paris to Cairo," Shaath told reporters in Ramallah.

    Earlier, Reuters quoted a Palestinian official as saying that Arafat has liver failure and his condition is not improving. An official, who declined to be named, said Palestinian leaders were considering moving Arafat from Paris to Cairo for treatment but any decision on this would have to be taken by the Palestinian leadership.

    France's foreign minister described Arafat's condition Sunday as "very complex, very serious and stable" but did not give details about his exact state or diagnosis.

    Asked about reports that Arafat is in fact brain dead, Michel Barnier replied: "I wouldn't say that."

    Arafat spent his sixth day Monday in the intensive care unit where he has been undergoing treatment for more than a week.

    Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that Arafat had undergone further medical tests and that results were expected within days. He did not specify the nature of the tests.

    "He is under strict medical observance. We hope that in the coming few days we will be able to know exactly what he is suffering from. So far, nobody could diagnose the situation."

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