Arafat breakdown: Feared he had been poisoned

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

RAMALLAH Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat appears to have recovered from exhaustion.

Palestinian sources said Arafat was concerned that he had been poisoned as part of an assassination plot by Israel and the United States. They said that Arafat sent for a medical team from Jordan when his own physicians could not determine his ailment.

"He was very tired and alarmed that he had been poisoned," a source said. "After a few days of arrest and a thorough examination, he's back at work again. The crisis is over."

Over the weekend, Arafat, 74, complained of nausea and canceled virtually all of his meetings. The exception was a brief session with Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Qurei on Monday, Middle East Newsline reported.

The absence of Arafat over the weekend sparked rumors that he had been incapacitated by a heart attack. After he completed his tests on Monday, Arafat emerged from PA headquarters in Ramallah smiling.

Palestinian sources said Arafat resumed his normal schedule on Tuesday after three days of relative inactivity. The sources said the PA chairman was given a clean bill of health by a team of physicians who arrived from Jordan in an emergency visit on Monday.

The team of Jordanian physicians arrived by special plane on Monday to examine the PA chairman. The team included leading Jordanian coronary specialist, Yusef Kasus and Arafat's personal physician, Ashraf Kurdi.

The Jordanian team gave Arafat a range of tests and left Ramallah on late Monday. The team was said to have found that Arafat was merely exhausted and was not poisoned. In June, Arafat accused Israel of trying to poison him.

Arafat was said to have come under great stress over the last month after he forced the resignation of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and searched for a replacement. Sources said that as early as two weeks ago, Arafat was unable to stand up for more than a minute when meeting Palestinian dignitaries.

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