Chirac 'personally responsible' for Arafat trip

29th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

ROME, Oct 29 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac personally took the decision to admit ailing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for treatment in a French hospital after a sudden deterioration in Arafat's health, his staff said Friday.

ROME, Oct 29 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac personally took the decision to admit ailing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for treatment in a French hospital after a sudden deterioration in Arafat's health, his staff said Friday.

Arafat arrived early Friday afternoon at the Percy military hospital at Clamart near Paris after being flown from his headquarters at Ramallah on the West Bank.

Chirac explained his decision at a news conference in Rome, where he was attending the signing of the new European Union constitution by EU leaders.

"It was natural that France, land of refuge, would not question the right of the president of the Palestinian Authority to come for medical treatment in our country," he said.

According to Chirac's staff: "When someone is ill, everyone should bow to humanitarian needs."

The hospital at Percy was chosen for the treatment of Arafat because of the high quality of its haematology department. Arafat is suffering from a life-threatening blood disorder.

The initial approach for Arafat to be treated in France came from Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei, who contacted the French consulate general in Jerusalem, according to Chirac's staff.

The request was immediately relayed to the French foreign ministry and to the Elysee palace, where Chirac quickly decided to give the green light.

There were no discussions with the Israeli authorities about an eventual return to the Palestinian territories if Arafat's health were to allow him to do so, Elysee sources said.

The initiative on that point was taken by the Palestinians, who approached France after receiving assurances from the Israelis.

Chirac told reporters in Rome that he believed Israeli assurances that Arafat would be allowed to return to the Palestinian territories.

"I have no reason to doubt what was officially stated by the Israeli government," he noted.

Chirac's staff said it was possible the Palestinians had approached other countries for medical treatment for Arafat but recalled that they had appealed to France for help in the past, including in 1982 when France rescued Arafat in Beirut.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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