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Arafat illness spurs struggle for influence

Page 3 of 3 -- Many members of the Palestinian leadership, Arafat's closest aides, and his wife, Suha, gathered in Paris. Many were staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in the Opera neighborhood of Paris. Observers said that the power struggle within the Palestinian leadership was already taking place, even in Paris as members gathered by their leader's bed.

Outside the hospital, as conflicting news reports spread about his quickly deteriorating health, people began to gather. At first, a few members of the Palestinian Diaspora -- refugees from the Israeli-Arab wars and immigrants to France -- huddled together on a single blanket and lit candles.

By nightfall, the crowd had grown to more than 100 people -- most of them Palestinian but many of them from Arab countries, including Algeria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Jordan. As many as 200 reporters flocked to the hospital and television news satellite trucks from dozens of the world's leading media organizations idled at the entrance to the hospital waiting for news.

 Arafat illness spurs struggle for influence (By Charles M. Sennott and Charles A. Radin, Globe Staff)
 Eventual burial site fuels emotional, political debate (By Charles A. Radin, Globe Staff)
 THE PEACE PROCESS: US diplomats take cautious line as they wait for news (By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff)

People carried posters of Arafat and Palestinian flags. A makeshift shrine sprouted on a sidewalk with candles, posters, flags, and a cardboard sign that read in French: "Yasser Arafat -- Symbol of the Palestinian People."

Nuha Rashmawki, 54, who was born in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and came to Paris in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, said, "This is a sad day. But the worst thing is to lose hope. We will always have hope and still believe, and will always believe, in a Palestinian state and in peace."

Majed Bamya, 22, the head of the Union of Palestinian Students in Paris, was wrapped in a black-and-white traditional kaffiyeh, or head scarf, which Arafat made a symbol of the Palestinian cause.

"He's a great symbol for us. There is a lot of anger over the conditions in which he was kept the last three years. If he should die, we would hope that his last wish would be respected to be buried in Jerusalem. It is our capital, too," Bamya said.

Globe correspondents Sa'id Ghazali in Ramallah and Lee Yanowitch in Paris contributed to this story. Sennott reported from Paris and Radin from Tel Aviv. 

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