Mrs. Arafat, Qurei, Mubarak agree on funeral arrangements

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority has prepared for the funeral of Yasser Arafat while withholding an announcement on his death.

PA secretary-general Tayeb Abdul Rahim said preparations for Arafat's funeral would be conducted at PA headquarters in Ramallah. Abdul Rahim's statement came as officials braced for a PA announcement on Arafat's death on Wednesday.

"We believe in God and if the worst will happen, all of the [funeral] arrangements will take place in the Mukata'a," Abdul Rahim, referring to Arafat's headquarters, said.

Officials said Arafat's body would be flown to Cairo for a funeral attended by Arab and other foreign leaders. They said Arafat would be buried in the West Bank, probably in the Ramallah area, Middle East Newsline reported.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has offered to host Arafat's funeral in Cairo. Officials said Mubarak has already discussed Arafat's funeral with his widow, Suha.

On Wednesday, a leading Palestinian cleric, Sheik Taysir Tamimi, administered last rites to Arafat and prepared for the transfer of his body to the Middle East. Officials said the sheik was sent to Paris by the PA after it was notified of Arafat's death.

Officials said Arafat was deemed brain dead on Nov. 4 in Paris, but his heart was kept pumping through life-support systems. They said that after nearly a week of discussions, Mrs. Arafat agreed to remove his body from Percy military hospital for burial.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Arafat allowed PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei to enter Arafat's hospital room and meet physicians. Later, PA International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath said the physicians had ruled out cancer or poison as the cause of his decline. Shaath did not acknowledge that Arafat has died, saying he was in a coma.

Shaath said the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Rawhi Fatouh, would temporarily succeed Arafat. He said Palestinian elections would be held 60 days later.

On Wednesday, the PLO Executive Council and Fatah Central Council were scheduled to hold a joint meeting in Ramallah to discuss funeral arrangements for Arafat. Officials said the Palestinian leadership was expected to emerge from the meeting with a statement on Arafat's death.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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