CLAMART, France (AP) – France’s foreign minister described Yasser Arafat’s condition Sunday as “very complex, very serious and stable” but did not give details about his exact state or diagnosis.

“He’s alive,” Michel Barnier said in an interview with LCI television. “His condition is very complex, very serious and stable right now.”

Asked about reports that the 75-year-old Palestinian leader is in fact brain dead, Barnier replied: “I wouldn’t say that.”

At least one of Arafat’s top lieutenants – and perhaps both – were to fly to France on Monday to consult with his doctors and meet with Barnier. The 75-year-old Arafat spent his fifth day Sunday in the intensive care unit of a French military hospital where he has been undergoing treatment for more than a week.

Arafat’s condition has been a mystery for days: Doctors have made no comment about a diagnosis, and his aides have been making contradictory and unclear reports.

Two days after the Palestinian envoy to France, Leila Shahid, said Arafat was comatose and “between life and death,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh told reporters, “He is not in a coma.”

Abu Rdeneh, who spoke to reporters as he came out of the military hospital, refused to say if he had seen Arafat personally.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, however, said Arafat was in a coma. “It’s a reversible coma,” he told CNN’s Late Edition. “All his vital functions are fine, OK. There is no brain damage, no liver damage. No damage at all to his vital organs. But we do not know what is the reason for this coma, and when he will come out of it.”

In the West Bank, Shaath said he would fly to France on Monday with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia or Mahmoud Abbas, deputy head of the Palestine Liberation Organization – or both. Barnier said he will hold talks with them in Paris on Monday.

In Jerusalem, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Israeli Cabinet that security officials have completed preparations for Arafat to be buried in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials have said Arafat wants to be buried in Jerusalem, but Israel has rejected that demand outright.

On Saturday, hospital spokesman Gen. Christian Estripeau described Arafat’s condition as identical to a day earlier, when he said there had been no change – for better or worse. The hospital has refused to elaborate, citing the family’s wishes.

Abu Rdeneh said Sunday that Arafat had undergone further medical tests and that results were expected within days. He did not specify the nature of the tests.

“He is still in the intensive care unit,” Abu Rdeneh said. “He is under strict medical observance. We hope that in the coming few days we will be able to know exactly what he is suffering from. So far, nobody could diagnose the situation.”

Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief and potential Arafat successor, was with Abu Rdeneh at the hospital, where they had an extended meeting with Arafat’s wife, Suha, and French doctors.

Dahlan returned to the West Bank on Sunday to brief the Palestinian leadership on Arafat’s health. He declined to provide details, other than to again deny persistent rumors that Arafat was brain dead or on life support.

Arafat first fell ill nearly a month ago with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. He was airlifted to France from his West Bank compound in Ramallah a week ago after briefly passing out. On Wednesday, his condition deteriorated and he was moved to an intensive care unit.


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