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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. ARAFAT SAID IN GRAVE CONDITION…After two weeks of denials, senior figures in the Palestinian Authority are describing Yassir Arafat’s condition as serious but stable. However, unnamed sources in Ramallah say Arafat has lost consciousness several times, is rejecting food and is now only being fed intravenously. Arafat’s wife Suha, who lives in Paris, is on her way to visit her husband, and many of the top Palestinians figures have convened in Ramallah, both to visit Arafat and to hold urgent consultations. Since news of Arafat’s illness spread some 12 days ago, his spokesmen have said he has a bout of flu and gallstones. However, teams of doctors, including oncologists, have been brought in from Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia to treat Arafat.

2. ARAFAT REPLACEMENT UNCLEAR…With Yassir Arafat’s illness, there is renewed talk in the Middle East about who would replace him. Several of the possible candidates are at his bedside now, including Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei’, former premier Mahmoud ‘Abbas and the Gaza-based Muhammad Dahlan. The rulebook says in the event that the leader is incapacitated, the head of the Palestinian Legislative Council will have 60 days in which to appoint a replacement, while acting as interim leader.

3. ISRAEL SEES PEACE OPPORTUNITY IN ARAFAT ILLNESS…While not formally commenting on Yassir Arafat’s condition, Israeli decision makers are quietly hoping in the event of Arafat’s demise there could be an early return to the negotiating table. Arafat walked out of the last high-level talks with Israel in 2000 under then U.S. President Bill Clinton. At the time Arafat said he could not accept an Israeli offer of a handover of some 97 percent of all post-1967 territories, including most of eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

4. U.N. HOPES GAZA VOTE WILL LEAD TO PEACE TALKS…United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed Tuesday night’s vote in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in favor of a withdrawal of all Israeli civilians and soldiers from Gaza. Annan said he hopes this will lead to a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He urged Israel to withdraw from all post-1967 territories.