PARIS — Yasser Arafat’s health is improving, one of his aides said Tuesday, repeating that tests have ruled out leukemia as the cause of the Palestinian leader’s health problems.
Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to France, said “President Arafat’s condition has improved sufficiently for him to undergo tests that would not have been performed upon admission” to the French military hospital where he was rushed for treatment on Friday.
She spoke of a possible problem with his “digestive function.”
“For the past 48 hours, he has been able to converse with his doctors and close relatives, colleagues and heads of state,” she said.
Arafat, who has been ill for three weeks, took a turn for the worse on Oct. 27, collapsing and briefly losing consciousness. Initial blood tests performed in the West Bank revealed a low blood platelet count. Platelets are blood components that aid clotting.
Arafat issues condemnation
Slideshow: Arafat, in images On Monday, Arafat dictated a condemnation of a deadly Tel Aviv suicide bombing, a sign he was active.
In his statement, Arafat condemned Monday’s bombing, which killed four people — including the bomber — and wounded 32, and “appealed to all Palestinian factions to commit to avoid harming all Israeli civilians,” Arafat’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said. Arafat also urged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “to take similar initiatives to avoid harming Palestinian civilians,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Arafat’s wife, Suha, used a cell phone to dictate her husband’s condemnation of the suicide bombing to the spokesman. Later, Arafat took the phone from his wife and asked Abu Rdeneh directly to make sure the statement was circulated. Abu Rdeneh told the 75-year-old Arafat to take care of himself.
Palestinian officials gave conflicting reports on when results from further tests were expected — adding to the confusion over Arafat’s illness.
Abu Rdeneh said final results from a battery of tests might not be available until late Wednesday or early Thursday. However, Mohammed Rashid, a close Arafat aide, said results were due Wednesday.
On Sunday, aides said, Arafat was healthy enough to telephone colleagues, read telegrams from world leaders, and eat a normal breakfast.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said all types of cancer had been ruled out. Still, Israel Army Radio on Monday quoted a senior military intelligence official as saying Israel assumes Arafat suffers from either a severe viral infection or cancer.
The official, who was not identified further, appeared before the Israeli parliament’s defense and foreign affairs committee, which was discussing Arafat’s condition in a close-door meeting.
Also Monday, Shahid suggested doctors were not considering poisoning as the likely cause of his health crisis.
French President Jacques Chirac called Arafat to ask about his health, Abu Rdeneh said. He said Arafat thanked Chirac for the French care.
Chirac spokesman Jerome Bonnafont said he couldn’t confirm the call but did say the French leader’s office was in contact with Arafat’s doctors and entourage throughout the weekend.
In a sign of Palestinians from all factions expressing their solidarity with Arafat, despite bitter rivalries, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal also called Sunday to wish Arafat well but did not speak to him directly, aides to Arafat said.
Shahid, the Palestinian envoy, said Arafat received messages from world leaders Russian President Vladimir Putin, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
In Israel, Sharon said Sunday that Arafat will not be permitted to be buried in Jerusalem if he dies as the Palestinian leader has requested.
But Shahid said Sharon was wasting his time because Arafat was doing well and would survive.
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