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Arafat's widow retrieves medical records
Updated: 2004-11-20 08:48

Yasser Arafat's widow took possession of the late Palestinian leader's widely sought medical records Friday, and was deciding whether to make the file public to "stop all these false ideas" of what caused his death, her lawyer said.

French authorities have handed over the medical file on recently deceased Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat to his widow Suha, who is studying it, her lawyer said. [Reuters]
Suha Arafat obtained the file from the Percy military hospital in suburban Paris in mid-afternoon, and was studying it, attorney Jean-Marie Burguburu told The Associated Press by telephone.

"The decision is in the process of being examined," he said. "The problem is, on the one hand, to try to stop all these false ideas about the death of President Arafat these rumors."

Authorities had said Thursday they would release Arafat's records to his nephew, Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative at the United Nations, who could resolve the lingering questions about the cause of death. Al-Kidwa was reportedly traveling to Paris Friday as an emissary of the Palestinian leadership, which has promised to make the records public.

A week after his death, speculation still swirls around what killed Arafat. Cirrhosis of the liver, AIDS, a blood disorder and poisoning are frequently mentioned in unconfirmed reports all consistent with the little that is publicly known about the medical condition that landed the Palestinian leader in a French hospital.

Similar to the uncertainty that shrouded his illness, there is a lack of clarity about who is entitled to the records. French officials insist the French law prevents them from making Arafat's medical records public, and they have refused to announce the cause of his death Nov. 11. They say only family members are entitled to receive the files.

Burguburu insisted that under French law, only Arafat's wife and daughter have the right to obtain the medical records.

In this picture released by the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, center, shakes hands with doctors at his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah, in this Oct. 28, 2004 file photo. Nearly a week after his death, speculation still swirls around what killed Yasser Arafat. [AP Photo]
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia promised Friday to make public the cause of Arafat's death.

"When we get this report, we will study it and hear the opinions of the doctors," Qureia said by telephone, "and then we will inform the Palestinian people with all the details about the health situation of President Arafat and what led to his death."

It was unclear when al-Kidwa would arrive in Paris. But he confirmed Thursday to The Associated Press that he would be traveling to France.

French Foreign and Defense Ministry officials said Friday they had no information about the al-Kidwa's trip.

The lack of information about his death has provided fertile ground for rumors in the Arab world that Arafat was poisoned, despite official denials. It also left the quality of care that Arafat received in France open to question and charges that perhaps not everything was done to save him.

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