Palestinian Officials: Arafat Is Improving

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From his hospital bed, Yasser Arafat (search) swiftly condemned a bombing in Tel Aviv on Monday — a sign the ailing Palestinian leader wants to convey the impression he is still in charge despite deteriorating health.

Arafat appealed to "all Palestinian factions to avoid harming Israelis," his aide, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, quoted him as saying just hours after a Palestinian teenager blew himself up at an outdoor market, killing three Israelis and injuring 32.

Abu Rdeneh relayed the statement to reporters as Arafat's wife, Suha, dictated it to him over his cell phone. Later, Arafat took the phone from his wife and asked Abu Rdeneh directly to make sure the statement was circulated.

Three days after Arafat was rushed from his battered Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank (search) to Paris for emergency treatment, Palestinian officials say their leader's condition has improved markedly — and that he does not suffer from leukemia (search), cancer or any type of poisoning.

None of those conclusions have been publicly confirmed by French physicians involved in his treatment. They are expected to deliver their diagnosis Tuesday or Wednesday. Only a handful of people have direct access to him: his wife; his chief of staff, Ramzi Khoury; his nephew, Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations; and Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to France.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath spoke to The Associated Press after separate phone conversations with Arafat's wife and Shahid. He quoted both as saying Arafat's condition had improved and he was eating well.

"Today he had vegetable soup, the color is back in his face and he made several phone calls to relatives and friends," Shaath said. "He is in better condition than before. God willing, the final results of all the tests will be published within two days."

Arafat welcomed the various meetings — including the Cabinet, the National Security Council and the PLO executive committee — that were held in his absence and asked for them to continue.

Other Palestinian officials said Arafat also spoke Monday to Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia; Mahmoud Abbas, the No. 2 in the PLO hierarchy; and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Palestinian aides said over the weekend that doctors were trying to determine whether Arafat was suffering from poisoning or a viral infection. But Shahid suggested Monday that doctors were not considering poisoning as the likely cause of his health crisis.

"In a military hospital of this quality ... they don't talk about things irresponsibly," she told France Inter radio. "These are not comments that are medically verified."

She added that Arafat had undergone "remarkable" improvement since he arrived at the Percy Military Teaching Hospital in Clamart, southwest of Paris.

Arafat has been ill for two weeks and took a turn for the worse Wednesday, collapsing and briefly losing consciousness. Initial blood tests performed in the West Bank revealed a low blood platelet count. French physicians gave Arafat a platelet transfusion shortly after his arrival.

A small group protested Arafat's presence at the hospital in an evening march, waving Israeli flags and shouting "Arafat Murderer." Police blocked the group, about 30 people, from approaching the hospital.

In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Arafat will not be permitted to be buried in Jerusalem if he dies as the Palestinian leader has requested.

But Shahid said Sharon was wasting his time because Arafat was doing well and would survive.

"There is no need to look for a grave for the president, since there won't be a burial," she told France Inter radio on Monday.