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1st tests on Arafat show no leukemia

Doctors probing cause of dramatic health deterioration

CLAMART, France — Initial results from a battery of tests on Yasser Arafat found no signs Saturday of leukemia, Palestinian officials said, but blood doctors were still probing the cause of the ailing Palestinian leader's dramatic deterioration in health.

"Arafat does not have leukemia," Mohammed Rashid, a close Arafat aide, said Saturday night. "It's been ruled out."

Results from additional tests to determine what was wrong were due Wednesday, he said.

Arafat was rushed from the West Bank to a French military hospital after being ill for two weeks with what was initially described as a bad flu, with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.

But Rashid, speaking to reporters at a Paris hotel where a contingent of Palestinian officials was staying, said Arafat was eating again Saturday and able to keep food down.

The comments from Rashid, Arafat's financial adviser, were more definitive than those hours earlier from Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to France.

Shahid, speaking in several languages to reporters outside the Percy military training hospital southwest of Paris: "The doctors exclude, already from what he has done in terms of exams, any possibility of leukemia. I repeat: the doctors exclude for the time being any possibility of leukemia."

In Arabic, Shahid said other tests also have "not shown any sign of other dangerous disease." But "there are other possibilities and we are still exploring," she added in English.

Earlier, a Palestinian official who spoke on condition of anonymity had said there was a strong possibility Arafat was suffering from the bone and blood cancer and that a team of French physicians specializing in the disorder examined the Palestinian leader for a second day Saturday.

In an interview with Palestinian Satellite Channel television, Shahid said Arafat spent half the day undergoing medical treatment and spoke by phone to his young daughter, Zahwa, in Tunisia.

"So far the test results are good," Shahid said. "The president is relaxing now, and he hopes he will return to take up his responsibilities soon."

Testing for leukemia usually involves blood smear tests and examination of bone marrow aspirate and of a bone marrow biopsy. Results from the blood tests and the bone marrow aspirate usually are clear within a few hours. However, it takes several days to get results from a biopsy.

One possibility is that a blood smear test revealed no leukemia cells but doctors are waiting for results of a bone marrow test, which is more likely to show abnormalities.

A blood test may also have shown no sign of leukemia, but evidence of a different, non-cancerous disease.