Arafat's condition worsening, say French doctors

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The Independent Online

French doctors treating Yasser Arafat confirmed for the first time today that he was in a coma and said his condition had deteriorated.

French doctors treating Yasser Arafat confirmed for the first time today that he was in a coma and said his condition had deteriorated.

"President Yasser Arafat's health worsened in the night," said Gen. Christian Estripeau, spokesman for the Percy Military Training Hospital outside Paris. "His coma, which led to his admission to the intensive care unit, became deeper this morning."

In comments that appeared to suggest that the Palestinian leader may not recover, he added that Arafat's deterioration "marks a significant stage toward a development for which we reserve our prognosis."

The comments were by far the most detailed by doctors since Arafat was admitted to the hospital Oct. 29, and they came amid a dramatic dispute between Arafat's wife Suha and Palestinian officials whom she has accused of trying to topple the veteran leader.

Four top Palestinian officials - including Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and former premier Mahmoud Abbas - arrived in Paris late Monday, amid confusion over his condition and despite uncertainty that they would be allowed to see him.

Prior to Estripeau's announcement, Palestinian envoy Leila Shahid - one of a small inner circle allowed access to his bedside to date - had said in a radio interview last week that Arafat was in a "reversible" coma and was "between life and death."

Media reports, epecially in Israel, have said he was brain dead. But other Palestinian leaders - and Suha Arafat - have painted a less dire picture.

Shahid had suggested the coma occurred after Arafat was put under anesthesia for medical tests including an endoscopy, colonoscopy and a biopsy of the spinal cord.

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