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Arafat wife: deputies plotting to 'bury him alive'
Updated: 2004-11-08 20:27

Yasser Arafat's wife accused Palestinian leaders on Monday of plotting to "bury him alive," but they decided to go ahead with a visit to the critically ill Palestinian president at a French military hospital.
Arafat wife: deputies plotting to 'bury him alive'
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's wife, Suha, accused Palestinian leaders November 8, 2004 of plotting to "bury him alive", but they decided to go ahead with a visit to the critically ill Palestinian president at a French military hospital.  [Reuters]
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath and Palestine Liberation OrganizationSecretary General Mahmoud Abbas planned to leave the West Bank for Jordan on Monday and then go to Paris, a senior Palestinian official told Reuters.

Another Palestinian official said they would arrive in France on Monday evening and discuss Arafat's medical condition with senior French officials on Tuesday.

Israeli media had reported the 75-year-old president would be taken off life-support equipment after the three leaders had visited him in the hospital's intensive care unit.

The leaders' departure from the West Bank appeared to have been delayed following a scathing verbal attack by Arafat's wife Suha.

"I appeal to you to be aware of the scope of the conspiracy," shouted Suha Arafat, speaking on Arabic Al Jazeera satellite television and sparking a war of words with loyalists of the three officials.

"They are trying to bury Abu Ammar (Arafat) alive," she said in comments that flew in the face of efforts by Arafat's lieutenants to project an image of unity and business as usual at a time when many Palestinians fear chaos if he dies.

"Abu Ammar is well and he is coming back to his homeland," she said, accusing the three leaders of being desperate to succeed him and giving no details about Arafat's illness.

After her remarks, Palestinian and French officials said the trip from the West Bank had been called off.

But Mohammed Dahlan, a former security chief close to Abbas and an influential leader in Arafat's Fatahfaction, said later: "There is no change of plan. The delegation is going to Paris."

Palestinian officials have privately accused Suha Arafat, who had not seen her husband for three years before the ailing leader was flown to Paris on Oct. 29, of limiting access to and information about the veteran leader.

"We express our utmost regret at the comments made by sister Suha," Qurie told reporters at the start of a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "(Arafat) belongs to the Palestinian people."

Other officials were less diplomatic. "Yasser Arafat is not the private property of Suha Arafat," said deputy Palestinian cabinet minister Sufian Abu Zaida.


Arafat, symbol for decades of the Palestinian struggle for a state and against Israeli occupation, was suffering from liver failure, one official said on Sunday.

An Israeli newspaper's Web site said the "working assumption" among Israeli security officials preparing for Arafat's death was that any life-support equipment would be shut down on Tuesday.

Arafat's close circle has been concerned fears about his health may increase chaos at home. Others fear a power struggle among Palestinians locked in a four-year-old uprising against Israel. Suha Arafat has lived abroad for much of the uprising.


French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier described Arafat's condition on Sunday as "very complex, very serious and stable at the time we are speaking."

Abbas and Qurie, overseeing the Palestinian Authority in Arafat's absence, wanted to go to Paris to learn the facts about his condition, on which a series of conflicting reports have emerged over the past week, a Palestinian official said.

Addressing the delicate issue of where Arafat should be buried if he dies, Israel said on Sunday it had completed preparations for his eventual burial in the Gaza Strip.

Arafat wants to be buried in Jerusalem's Old City, which is holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians. But Israel refuses to let him be laid to rest on land it has annexed -- a move not recognized internationally.

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