Rumours fly over Arafat's death

12th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 12 (AFP) - What did Yasser Arafat die of? With the body of the late Palestinian leader now buried in his West Bank headquarters, his cause of death and mysterious illness have become a major point of scrutiny in France, where he received final medical treatment.

PARIS, Nov 12 (AFP) - What did Yasser Arafat die of? With the body of the late Palestinian leader now buried in his West Bank headquarters, his cause of death and mysterious illness have become a major point of scrutiny in France, where he received final medical treatment.

Officials have refused to divulge the information, citing patient confidentiality under French law.

In the absence of a diagnosis, rumours have flown back and forth.

Some Palestinians have speculated that Israel was responsible, either indirectly by keeping 75-year-old Arafat confined in his battered Ramallah compound, or directly, through poisoning.

Others, trying to piece together the puzzle from the symptoms announced before Arafat's emergency flight to a Paris military hospital on October 29 and from French medical sources speaking anonymously, saw the signs of terminal cancer.

Arafat's Paris-based widow, Suha, has offered no elucidation, leading some to conclude that the ailment might be embarrassing if it ever became known.

But an X-ray specialist who had access to Arafat's medical file told Liberation newspaper that he did not see anything sinister in the data.

"It was basic medicine, there were no surprises," it quoted the unnamed doctor as saying.

France's Le Figaro newspaper, close to the government of President Jacques Chirac, who personally made the decision to take in Arafat, brushed aside the official line that the Palestinian leader was suffering "gastric flu".

The symptoms of stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea suffered by Arafat and the increase in white blood cells and the decline of blood platelets needed for blood clotting suggested other, more serious causes, it said.

The Percy military hospital which treated him publicly ruled out leukaemia after running tests.

"However, the diagnosis of another haemotological disease cannot be excluded, starting with lymphoma," a specialist told Le Figaro.

Other theories advanced were those of advanced cancer of the bone marrow or the bowels, possibly complicated by infections.

In any case, it would probably emerge that Arafat was in an irreversible coma and had his bodily functions kept going artificially for up to a week before he was declared dead on Thursday, French media said.

The days leading up to the announcement were marked by confusion, with some French medical sources and Palestinian aides saying Arafat was effectively dead, while Suha and other Palestinian officials fiercely denied that.

A spokesman for the French military's medical service, Christian Estripeau, told AFP hours after Arafat was pronounced dead that he had "no declaration" to make on the cause.

"It is not up to the defence forces' health service to reveal information given to the family," he said.

Arafat's personal physician, Dr Ashraf al-Kurdi, has called for an inquiry into the veteran Palestinian leader's death.

"I demand an official inquiry and an autopsy ... so the Palestinian people can learn in all transparency what caused the death," he told Al-Jazeera television late Thursday.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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