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Arafat not dying, doctor and officials say
( 2003-10-10 09:38) (Agencies)

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's doctor said Thursday he was in good health despite a stomach problem and dismissed media speculation that he has a life-threatening illness.

Ashraf al-Kurdi said Arafat had "acute gastroenteritis" -- an irritation of the digestive tract.

"The acute gastroenteritis has recovered and he is in a good state," al-Kurdi, who visited Arafat from Jordan with a cardiologist and gastroenterologist last week, told Reuters.

Time Magazine said the "recent working diagnosis" is that Arafat is suffering from stomach cancer.

But a Palestinian official close to Arafat, 74, said: "He is not dying." He denied a report in a British newspaper, The Guardian, that Arafat had a mild heart attack last week.

Arafat, a veteran symbol of Palestinian aspirations for independence, appeared to many observers to be frail during the swearing in ceremony Tuesday of his new cabinet.

Thursday he held talks with Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie and other Palestinian officials but did not appear in public.

A session of the Palestinian parliament he had been due to attend was canceled following political infighting and Palestinian officials said a Russian delegation postponed its planned meeting with him.

Arafat declared a state of emergency Sunday after Israeli ministers renewed calls to "remove" him following a suicide bombing that killed 19 people in Israel.

A senior aide said an Egyptian medical team headed by President Hosni Mubarak's private physician had examined Arafat at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"They took blood samples and carried out several tests," he said. "Their initial findings were that he had a very strong flu and stomach virus, but the final results will be given to us tonight."

As a result of the illness, Arafat did not eat solid foods for 10 days and could not even keep soup down, aides said.

A senior Israeli military source said Arafat's ailment did not appear to be life-threatening. An Israeli government official said that should it become serious, Israel "would consider letting him go overseas for emergency treatment."

However, the government official added that Israel would have to consider whether to allow him to return.

In remarks to the Palestinian daily al-Quds Thursday, Arafat said he had suffered stomach pains but was recovering.

"People around him are afraid of complications because of his age but especially because of the unhealthy situation he is living in, in his office," another senior aide said.

"Others are looking into the possibility that he might have been poisoned, so the...medical team has taken blood samples."

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