11/05/2004, 00.00
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Arafat is not dead, aide says

Paris (AsiaNews/Agencies) – "Yasser Arafat is not brain dead; he is in a reversible coma", said Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to France, thus denying yesterday's reports about Yasser Arafat's death. According to her, Arafat is in a "reversible coma because he was put under aesthetic so that the necessary tests could be carried out, [. . .] because we still have no diagnosis."

Shahid said that all of Arafat's "vital organs" were functioning, adding that according to the doctors at the Percy Military Hospital, "he could wake up, but he could [also] not wake up,"

Currently, the causes of Arafat's conditions are still unknown and the medical staff at the hospital is keeping him in a coma "to avoid the worse".

The news of Arafat's death started making the rounds yesterday afternoon and was confirmed this morning by Yosef Lepid, Israel's Justice Minister. For the first time, a high Israeli official said that the Palestinian leader was "brain dead" but "on life support".

For the time being, power in the Palestinian Authority is exercised by Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who has taken on some of the tasks normally carried out by Arafat. In the next few hours, he should meet Hamas leaders.

Arafat never settled the succession question and has not appointed any successor. The vacuum at the top might send Palestinian society in a spin of tensions and conflict.

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