Palestinian Authority plans to seize Arafat's bank accounts

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority plans to battle the wife of Yasser Arafat for control of his fortune, estimated at $3 billion.

Arafat has been reported variously as dead, clinically dead, brain dead, in a coma, and on the road to recovery since last Thursday.

PA officials said the Palestinian leadership has decided to locate and seize Arafat's bank accounts, which they said contain at least $1 billion in foreign aid meant for the Palestinian people. They said the PA has rejected Suha Arafat's efforts to help appoint Arafat's successor and inherit her husband's assets.

The officials said Mrs. Arafat has been pressing Arafat's financial adviser, Mohammed Rashid, for information on her husband's secret bank accounts in Switzerland. But Rashid was said to have refused, saying he would provide this information to the Palestinian leadership.

Over the weekend, senior PA officials concluded that Arafat was brain dead, Middle East Newsline reported. They said they had obtained information from Egypt and France that Arafat's heart was operating through life-support systems.

"Mrs. Suha Arafat does not represent our people or our leadership," PA secretary-general Tayeb Abdul Rahim said. "Had the president may God heal and cure him heard such words, he would be totally rejecting them, and would not be allowing them at all."

Abdul Rahim was referring to Mrs. Arafat's accusation that a planned visit by a PA delegation to France was meant to "bury" Arafat. Suha said.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, PLO Executive Council secretary Mahmoud Abbas and International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath were conspiring against her husband.

"Those with honor among the Palestinians must know that a cadre of those who wish to inherit will visit Paris tomorrow to try to bury Abu Amar [Arafat] while he's still alive," Mrs. Arafat said in an interview broadcast on Monday on the Qatari-based A-Jazeera satellite television. "I ask you to understand the magnitude of the conspiracy. I say to you, they want to bury Abu Amar while he's still alive. Abu Amar is fine. He's going to return home."

[On Tuesday, Palestinian insurgents fired four mortars into Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip and a Kassam missile into Israel. Later, Israeli authorities reported that the Syrian-aligned Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine sought to bomb the French embassy in Tel Aviv last week.]

The PA delegation was meant to have flown to Paris on Monday to consult with French government leaders regarding Arafat's condition. PA officials said Abbas and Qurei decided on the trip in wake of what they termed were false reports by Mrs. Arafat that her husband was alive and in stable condition.

"It's an absurd situation that Suha is sitting there and deciding when, how and who," Sufian Abu Zaida, a senior PA official, said. "This is the job of the Palestinian leadership."

After a one-day delay, the PA delegation arrived in Paris and on Tuesday met French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and French President Jacques Chirac. Officials said the delegation sought to win French agreement to declare Arafat dead over the next two days.

On Tuesday, Percy hospital reported that Arafat had fallen into a deep coma overnight. In the first statement since last week, the hospital said.

Arafat's health has worsened and this "marks a significant step towards a development whose prognosis cannot yet be determined."

"We are confident with good news," Shaath said. "But we want to come back with facts."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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