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Doctors consider moving Arafat to hospital -

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Doctors consider moving Arafat to hospital

Reporter: Jane Hutcheon

TONY JONES: The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remains in a serious but stable condition tonight
with a team of doctors from Egypt and Jordan now by his side.

Arafat's health suddenly deteriorated early this morning, though the precise nature of his illness
is not yet clear.

Israel has given permission for him to leave the West Bank city of Ramallah where he's been under
virtual house arrest.

Doctors are now reported to be preparing to move him to hospital.

Middle East correspondent Jane Hutcheon reports.

JANE HUTCHEON: Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei lead the procession of visitors to the battered compound
of the Palestinian leader, now a make-shift clinic.

It's known that Yasser Arafat is very ill, but aides say his condition has stabilised.

SAEB EREKAT, PALESTINIAN CABINET MINISTER: Contrary to all that was said that the president
collapsed, the president is in a coma and so on, he's fully awake and we talked to him yesterday.

I'm not denying that the president is sick.

JANE HUTCHEON: Doctors made their way from Jordan and Egypt to assess whether the chairman needs
hospital attention.

Over the past year, Israel had threatened to assassinate the leader.

Now it's offered to help.

RAANAN GISSIN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: This is a humanitarian case and we will provide any
assistance that will be required in order to facilitate the treatment of Mr Arafat.

JANE HUTCHEON: The ailing leader is 75 and has suffered frequent bouts of sickness, most recently
stomach pains, which intensified early this week.

Palestinian officials in the region and Chairman Arafat's wife, Suha, have been summoned to
Ramallah.

It will be Mrs Arafat's first visit in four years.

Israeli leaders say it's too early to eulogise the man who's lead the Palestinian people for 40
years, but in Jerusalem, there's already much talk and speculation.

JERUSALEM RESIDENT #1: It's going to be very messy if he's dead.

I think it's better if he stays alive.

Although he's made a lot of trouble for Israel but if he dies probably Hamas will take over and it
will be even worse.

JERUSALEM RESIDENT #2: The chances for peace will be now more and more a reality.

JANE HUTCHEON: Whether the undisputed leader of the Palestinian people will leave his compound,
where he's been holed up for more than two years, will be decided over the next few hours by
doctors.

It's unclear whether his life is in danger.

He is after all a veteran survivor.

But this latest crisis has caused widespread concern through the Arab world as it awaits further
news of Chairman Arafat's condition.

Jane Hutcheon, Lateline.