PARIS (AP) – Yasser Arafat’s widow took possesion of his widely sought medical records on Friday, and was deciding whether to release the information publicly, her lawyer said.

Suha Arafat obtained the file from the Percy military hospital in suburban Paris in mid-afternoon, attorney Jean-Marie Burguburu told The Associated Press by telephone.

Earlier, Palestinian leaders dispatched an emissary to Paris to pick up the records and had promised to make public the cause of Arafat’s death,

It wasn’t immediately clear how the latest development would affect the mission of the emissary – Nasser al-Kidwa, Arafat’s nephew and also the Palestinian representative to the United Nations. He had confirmed to the The AP late Thursday that he would be traveling to France.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told the AP there was no doubt that Arafat’s medical records – which French officials have refused to release publicly – would come to light.

“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.”

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

But Palestinian Cabinet secretary Hassan Abu Libdeh said Thursday that al-Kidwa was coming here to obtain medical records from Arafat’s two-week stay in a Paris hospital, where he died Nov. 11.

“We will get the report, and the Palestinian Authority will take the necessary decisions including informing the Palestinian people about the full details of the report,” Libdeh said.

Officials here insist that French law prevents them from making Arafat’s medical records public – but they can give them to family members, who can then reveal information if they wish.

French officials have refused to make public the cause of death, opening the way for widespread rumors in the Arab world that Arafat was poisoned, despite official denials.

French law does not specify how closely related a family member must be to have access to medical information and it is unclear whether al-Kidwa knew all along what was wrong with his uncle. French officials said Thursday they have determined that al-Kidwa qualifies as a close enough relative to have access to the files.



Associated Press writer Danica Kirka in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

AP-ES-11-19-04 1740EST



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