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Arafat in Coma, 'Between Life and Death' -Aide - 2004-11-05


A close aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says he has slipped into a coma and is lingering between life and death.

Leila Shahid, the Palestinian leader's spokeswoman, told a reporter in France Friday that Mr. Arafat may or may not awaken from the coma. She strongly denied earlier accounts from an unidentified French doctor that said the 75-year-old Palestinian leader was "brain dead," with no possibility of regaining consciousness.

In a suburban area outside Paris where Mr. Arafat has been hospitalized, a small group of his supporters waited through the night for news of his condition, holding Palestinian flags and keeping dozens of candles alight. President Jacques Chirac visited Mr. Arafat at the French military hospital on Thursday afternoon.

In the Palestinian territories, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has been given control of some of Mr. Arafat's authority over the Palestinian Authority's finances and security arrangements. Emergency meetings reportedly were taking place in Ramallah on the West Bank, Mr. Arafat's headquarters.

No successor to Mr. Arafat has been named, and there are fears his death could spark a power struggle among Palestinian political factions.

Information for this story is provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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