Ailing Arafat flies to France for treatment

The Palestinian president Yasser Arafat is travelling to a hospital in France today to seek treatment for an illness related to a "low blood platelet count".

Mr Arafat, who has been ensconced at his Ramallah compound for more than two years, has suffered from poor health for some time now. But on Wednesday his condition deteriorated and a team of doctors from Jordan and Tunisia were brought in.

Despite Palestinian officials playing down the seriousness of his illness, it became clear that the ailing 75-year-old should be moved to hospital. He was flown by helicopter to Jordan yesterday before boarding a flight bound for Paris. Mr Arafat is expected to arrive in the French capital at midday local time.

The Israelis had offered "all necessary assistance" for Arafat, saying that "humanitarian values and morality" stand over political concerns.

Mr Arafat's wife, Suha, joined her husband yesterday, having flown in from France where she has been living in exile for the past four years.


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