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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arafat Critical as His Coma Deepens

PARIS -- Yasser Arafat's condition deteriorated dramatically overnight as his coma deepened, but the Palestinian foreign minister said Tuesday he is "still alive" and his brain, heart and lungs are working.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said the 75-year-old Arafat was in critical condition. Shaath spoke after top Palestinian officials went to the hospital outside Paris where Arafat has been for nearly two weeks.

At a news conference in Paris, Shaath said the Palestinian leadership wanted to end rumors and speculation about Arafat's health. Media reports have speculated that Arafat had either died or was brain-dead.

"His brain, his heart and his lungs are still functioning and he is alive," Shaath said.

Shaath, referring to reports that Arafat might be removed from life support, said the possibility of euthanasia has been "ruled out."

"We don't have a full understanding of why his state has deteriorated, which means we don't have a full diagnosis," Shaath said. He said Arafat's nearly three-year confinement at his headquarters in the West Bank contributed to his deterioration.

Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, made preparations for Arafat's eventual death, deciding that he will be buried at the West Bank headquarters, Deputy Parliament Speaker Hassan Khreisheh said.

"We formed a committee to handle Arafat's burial in the event of his death, and the burial will be in the Muqata," Khreisheh said, referring the Ramallah headquarters by its Arabic name.

Israel has ruled out a burial in Jerusalem or the city's West Bank suburb of Abu Dis. Asked about the Palestinians' decision, Asaf Shariv, a top aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: "The prime minister said, 'Not in Jerusalem and not in Abu Dis.' We haven't discussed Ramallah yet. We will discuss it and decide."

A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision was made by Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and the No. 2 in the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, the current caretaker leaders.

The official said the Ramallah burial would be considered temporary, until Arafat could be reburied in Jerusalem.

Top Islamic cleric Taissir Dayut Tamimi said he was rushing from the West Bank to Arafat's bedside at the request of Palestinian officials. Tamimi, the head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza, said he was going to Paris "to be near President Arafat at this crucial time."

A top Palestinian official, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, said Arafat had suffered a brain hemorrhage Monday night at the Percy Military Training Hospital outside Paris.

A senior Palestinian official said earlier that Arafat had only hours to live. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was in Ramallah and had been briefed by Palestinian officials in Paris.

Abdel Rahim said Palestinian leaders would meet through the night at Arafat's headquarters "to follow everything and to agree on the details of the required arrangements."

"If the fate of God comes, all the arrangements will be made here in the Muqata, which is considered a symbol of Palestinian steadfastness," he said.