Fatah names triumvirate to replace Arafat

Thursday, October 28, 2004

RAMALLAH The ruling Fatah movement has established a successor to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, said to be in critical condition.

Palestinian sources said Fatah leaders have established a triumvirate to succeed the 75-year-old Arafat. They said the three Palestinians include the former and current PA prime ministers and were authorized to take over Arafat's duties immediately.

"His [Arafat's] situation is very bad, but stable," Imad Shakour, an Arafat adviser, said on Thursday.

Arafat's condition has been termed critical and he was said have lost consciousness overnight Thursday. He has been treated in a makeshift clinic in his compound in Ramallah by a team of Palestinian and Tunisian doctors, Middle East Newsline reported.

PA officials have described Arafat's illness as everything from flu to gallstones. But Israeli officials said Arafat has been felled by a malignant tumor.

The Palestinian sources identified the three-member successor leadership as Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian National Council chairman Salim Zaanoun. The sources said Zaanoun would serve a symbolic role.

"He [Arafat] has a replacement," Shakour said. "There will not be a collapse."

On Thursday, Qurei visited Arafat and officials said the two men spoke briefly. Hours earlier, Abbas and Qurei met Arafat alone in a discussion that was said to have focused on the transfer of authority during the current emergency.

Former PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan was expected to arrive in Ramallah later on Thursday to meet Arafat, the sources said. Over the last year, Dahlan, supported by Britain and the United States, has been a rival of Arafat and sought to foment a revolt within Fatah in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered that Arafat be allowed to leave the West Bank for medical treatment. A team of Egyptian and Jordanian physicians was expected to decide later on Thursday whether to move Arafat to a hospital.

"The doctors will decide whether to transfer Arafat to Ramallah hospital in the coming hours," PA Local Authorities Minister Jamal Shubaki said on Thursday.

Later, the PA submitted a request for Arafat's immediate transfer to the Ramallah hospital. Israel approved the request, and Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said physicians would decide by 5 p.m. local time [10 a.m. EST] whether the chairman would be moved to a hospital by mid-afternoon.

Officials said Arafat might not be strong enough to be taken to a foreign hospital.

The death of Arafat, Israeli officials said, could result in a renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in what could supplant Israel's plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. Israel plans to withdraw from these areas by September 2005.

"If there will be a leadership that will fight terror, there is no reason why we shouldn't talk to them," Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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