Paris - Palestinian leaders retracted statements made over the weekend that their embattled leader, Yasser Arafat, had passed away.
Arafat has been on the brink of death in a Paris hospital for several days now. Most outside medical experts give him only a week or two to live.
The problem is centered on a failing liver, which is making life increasingly difficult for the militant figurehead. Various news organizations have reported on the failing health of Arafat, all seemingly with different conclusions.
What is known for sure is that a furious power struggle is building in the French capitol. It is hard to pin down fact from fiction as both camps, the first lead by Arafat's closest PLO allies and the other lead by Yasser Arafat's long distance wife, 41-year-old Suha Arafat, try to spin doctors' reports for their own political gain.
The latest battle took place early Monday morning. According to Al Jazeera TV, Arafat's top lieutenant Mahmoud Abbas declared Palestine's top man "very dead". A transcript from an interview with a hospital employee working on Arafat's floor revealed that Abbas requested several hospital orderlies to take the ailing leader away:
Abbas: Here's one.
Arafat: I'm not dead.
Abbas: Nothing. (To the orderly)Here are your euros.
Arafat: I'm not dead!
Orderly: He says he's not dead!
Abbas: Yes, he is.
Arafat: I'm not!
Orderly: He isn't?
Abbas: Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.
Arafat: I'm getting better!
Abbas: No, you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.
Orderly: Oh, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
Arafat: I don't want to go on the cart!
Abbas: Oh, don't be such a baby.
Orderly: I can't take him.
Arafat: I feel fine!
Abbas: Well, do us a favor.
Orderly: I can't.
Abbas: Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
Orderly: No, I've got to go to the Backbone Ward. They've lost nine today.
Abbas: Well, when's your next round?
Arafat: I think I'll go for a walk.
Abbas: (to Arafat) You're not fooling anyone, you know. (turning to the orderly) Look. Isn't there something you can do?
Arafat: [singing] I feel happy. I feel happy.
Suha Arafat supporters accuse Abbas and other PLO members of trying to pull "all sorts of nasty stunts like this," while Abbas claims that it is merely "how (I) roll."