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Tunisian doctors examine Arafat, aides blame flu
Updated: 2004-10-24 11:02

A Tunisian medical team examined Yasser Arafat in the West Bank on Saturday, but aides dismissed Israeli media reports that the Palestinian president's health had deteriorated and said he had flu.

The Tunisian doctors, who flew into the West Bank city of Ramallah after receiving permission from Israel, were the second group of foreign doctors to examine Arafat, 75, after he became ill a week ago. Egyptian doctors saw him earlier this week.

Israel's Channel Two television said both teams of doctors concluded Arafat was suffering from gallstones and had an intestinal infection. The television station said Arafat would likely need to travel abroad for surgery.

Arafat's aides said the Palestinian leader was on the road to recovery from a severe bout of flu.

Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian cabinet minister, told Reuters that Arafat was "recovering from severe stomach flu." He denied the Israeli television reports that the Palestinian leader might need an operation, saying they were "unfounded."

For the past two years, Arafat has been confined to his headquarters in Ramallah where he has been effectively isolated by the Israeli army as it tried to quell a four-year-old Palestinian uprising.

Israel and the United States have accused him of fomenting violence, a charge he denies.

Arafat has long been rumored to suffer from Parkinson's disease. Aides say he suffers from neurological injuries caused by a near-fatal plane crash in Libya in 1992.

Palestinian sources said Arafat had suffered from a high fever and nausea, forcing him to cancel several meetings and miss prayers at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan a week ago. They said he had since recovered but needed to rest.

Sources in Ramallah said the team of Tunisian doctors included internal specialists as well as a neurologist.

"An Egyptian medical team has fully examined President Arafat and the test results showed that the president is well. The president suffered from minor illness which is acute flu," said an Arafat aide, Nabil Abu Rdainah.

Arafat has refused to heed doctors' orders not to fast during Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, the sources said.

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