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Arafat Feeling 'More Lively'

The ailing Yasser Arafat was feeling better and "more lively" Sunday, his top aides said, as doctors in France tried to determine if the Palestinian leader has a viral infection or some form of cancer after ruling out leukemia as the cause of his health crisis.

Aides said the 75-year-old Arafat was becoming active in some of his duties. He phoned home to the West Bank to weigh in on financial questions, telling his finance minister, Salam Fayyad, that he is "feeling well," Fayyad told The Associated Press.

The Palestinian leader spent part of the day catching up on international and Arab events and reading summaries of telegrams from world leaders who wished him well, said spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh. Arafat also spoke with former Gaza security chief Mohammed Dahlan, who came to France with him, Dahlan's office said from Gaza.

Results from additional medical tests on Arafat are due Wednesday, another aide, Mohammed Rashid, said in France. But Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat told Israel's Army Radio on Sunday that Arafat's doctors would be getting results on tests and issuing a medical report in the next 48 hours.

Arafat, 75, was rushed Friday from Ramallah to a military hospital outside Paris after being ill for two weeks with what was initially described as a bad flu. He worsened Wednesday night, when he collapsed and briefly lost consciousness.

But his condition has improved markedly since Friday, said Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath. Arafat ate cereal, milk and tea, said Shaath, speaking from Ramallah in the West Bank.

"He's much better, he's really much better, and he's more cheerful," Shaath said. "He's more lively. He's less tired."

Fayyad said Arafat called him to deal with a financial crisis and ensure that Palestinian Authority employees are paid on time, particularly with the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan approaching.

"Arafat told me, 'I am OK. I am feeling well. Please tell my brothers there that I am doing well,"' Fayyad said. "This phone call is clear proof that President Arafat is fully aware of what is going on around him ... He talked to me and he knew he was speaking to the finance minister. We were discussing details of things."

Shaath said examinations so far had ruled out leukemia "or any other cancer." However, no doctors or other specialists have publicly confirmed that conclusion. The only problem that has been announced is a low blood platelet count.

"There are many tests to be done in the coming days to find out the reason why the blood platelets are decreasing," Shaath said.

Platelets are blood components that aid clotting. A low count indicates a possible problem with the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. There are many causes of platelet decline, ranging in severity from minor to life-threatening.

Now doctors were trying to determine whether Arafat was suffering from another form of cancer, a viral infection or some type of poisoning, Palestinian aides said. They did not elaborate on the question of poisoning.

"He is not suffering from any serious problem — his situation is curable; he will recover very soon. It is better than expected," Abu Rdeneh said Sunday.

In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday that Arafat will not be permitted to be buried in Jerusalem if he dies. "As long as I am prime minister, Arafat won't be buried in Jerusalem," he told a Cabinet meeting, according to participants.

Arafat has said he wants to be buried at the Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary. Israel has marked a possible burial site for Arafat in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, in the West Bank, security officials said.

Sharon rejected calls by hard-line ministers at the meeting that he refuse to allow Arafat back into the West Bank.

Senior intelligence officials and representatives from the foreign and defense ministries briefed the Israeli Cabinet on Arafat's health and possible scenarios if he becomes incapacitated or dies.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel's army would "demonstrate restraint" in military operations in the West Bank and Gaza until the Palestinian leadership situation became clear.

"These are days of waiting, and during such days you act perhaps with a bit more caution," Shalom told Army Radio.

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