JERUSALEM – Though Yasser Arafat (search) lies gravely ill in a Paris hospital, Palestinians have refused to begin planning for his funeral or coordinate with Israel on the movement of attending foreign dignitaries, officials say.
Arafat's burial place also is uncertain, after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) ruled out Jerusalem. Arafat had expressed a wish to be buried there at a hotly disputed holy site in the Old City.
Muslims call the hilltop Haram as-Sharif (search), or Noble Sanctuary, Islam's third-holiest shrine, where the Al Aqsa Mosque compound is built over the ruins of the biblical Jewish temples.
Jews call the site the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. Disputes over control and sovereignty there have scuttled several rounds of peace talks.
Arafat could be buried in the Gaza Strip, where his family has a plot. An alternative would be the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Arafat made his headquarters and which became his prison after Israel besieged his compound more than two years ago.
Palestinians refuse to discuss arrangements as long as Arafat is alive.
Arafat, who had been ill for two weeks, was evacuated by helicopter from his battered headquarters last week when his condition suddenly worsened. He was flown to Jordan and from there to a French military hospital in Paris for diagnosis and treatment.
Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were instructed to prepare for the arrival of foreign envoys for the funeral, but the Palestinians weren't ready yet to cooperate in the planning.
Israel anticipated receiving envoys from countries with which it has diplomatic relations and providing security for them until they pass into Palestinian-controlled territory, officials said. Envoys from other countries would likely arrive across the border from Jordan or Egypt, depending on the location of the grave site.
It was unclear who would attend. Although Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian Authority formed after he returned from exile in 1994, it is not a widely recognized government. The Palestinians have observer status at the United Nations.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, declined to discuss the level of delegations that might attend until the official announcement of Arafat's death.