Special report: Concern mounts over
Yasser Arafat's health
CLAMART, France, Nov. 11
(Xinhuanet) -- French President Jacques Chirac visited the Percy military
hospital in the southwestern Paris suburb on Thursday morning to pay his last
respects to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died at the age of
File photo dated
on Oct.04, 2001 shows Arafat(L), Chirac and Annan. French President
Jacques Chirac visited the Percy military hospital in the southwestern
Paris suburb on Thursday morning to pay his last respects to the late
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died at the age of 75. (File
Chirac was greeted by Palestinian representative in Paris, Leila Shahid,
before entering the hospital.
Chirac stayed for 25 minutes in front of Arafat's body and expressed his
condolences to Arafat's wife Suha and Palestinian representative in Paris Leila
"I have come to bow before president Yasser Arafat and pay him a final
homage," Chirac told reporters after the short visit, extending his "sincerest
condolences to his wife, his family and his friends and I address a message of
friendship and solidarity to the Palestinian people and their representatives."
Earlier, shortly after Arafat passed away, Chirac paid tribute to the
former Palestinian leader expressing France's willingness to boost the Middle
East peace process.
"I have learned with emotion of the death of President Yasser Arafat, first
president of the Palestinian Authority," Chirac saidin a statement.
He described Arafat as "a man of courage and conviction who for40 years has
incarnated the Palestinians' fight for recognition oftheir national rights."
"To the Palestinian people, at this moment of mourning I want to express
the friendship of France and of the French people," he said.
Chirac said he hoped Arafat's death would unite all Palestinians.
"It is by remaining united that they will remain faithful to Yasser
Arafat's memory and bring about the ideal to which he had devoted his
existence," he said.
France and other European Union members will firmly abide by their
commitments "in favor of two states -- a viable, peaceful and democratic
Palestinian state and the state of Israel," Chirac said.
He said the roadmap peace plan approved by Arafat opens a perspective in
which the two states live "side by side in peace and security."
The international community should play its full role to
ensureimplementation of the plan, Chirac added.
Also on Thursday, a spokesman at the French Defense Ministry told Xinhua
that Arafat's body will initially be taken to the Villacoublay military base
near Paris where a French military Airbus A-319 will take the former Palestinian
president's remains to Cairo later Thursday for a funeral at a mosque near the
Cairo international airport on Friday.
Arafat's body will then be flown by military helicopter to Ramallah for
burial the same day at his headquarters where he had been confined by Israel for
nearly three years.
The French government will hold a farewell ceremony at the military base
before Arafat's remains are flown to Cairo. French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre
Raffarin is expected to attend the ceremony.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier is expected to attend the funeral in
Cairo, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday.
Arafat died at the Percy military hospital at 3:30 a.m. local time (0230
GMT) on Thursday. Enditem