Arafat: Burial tomorrow at Ramallah in stone coffin

Yasser Arafat will be buried at his West Bank headquarters in a stone coffin, not a wooden one, to allow his re-interment at a later time in Jerusalem, his aides said today.

Yasser Arafat will be buried at his West Bank headquarters in a stone coffin, not a wooden one, to allow his re-interment at a later time in Jerusalem, his aides said today.

Arafat is to be buried tomorrow Friday at the Ramallah compound, or Muqata, to which he had been confined by Israel for nearly three years.

Overnight, bulldozers were clearing a plot next to the Muqata's parking lot, and a grave was being dug, said Ahmed Ghneim, a top official in Arafat's Fatah movement.

Azzam al-Ahmed, another Fatah official, said Arafat would be buried in a stone coffin to allow him to be reinterred at a later time at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest shrine.

Arafat will be buried in soil taken from the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. Ten sacks of earth were takenfor his grave at the Muqata, said Ahmed Ghneim, one of the permanent leaders of Arafat's Fatah movement.

Israel has ruled out a Jerusalem burial, fearing it would undermine its claims to sovereignty over all of the city. The Palestinians want to establish their capital in the eastern sector, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

In a compromise, the Palestinians agreed to have Arafat buried at the Muqata, but said the compound would only be his temporary grave.

"The final resting place will be the Al Aqsa Mosque," said Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat. "One of these days, we will have a Palestinian state, and President Arafat will be laid to rest (in Jerusalem)."

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