Suha Arafat has rejected a $2 million financial settlement from Palestinian figures acting on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, according to French sources, who are becoming increasingly impatient with the wife of the deeply comatose Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
The settlement was aimed at persuading Suha Arafat to allow completion of the tests that would finally determine the chairman's death. Contacts between Suha Arafat and the Palestinian financiers began as soon as it became clear that Arafat would have to be flown to France for emergency medical treatment.
The French have been exasperated by Suha Arafat's refusal, permissible under French law, to allow others access to he husband's room in the Percy Military Hospital near Paris.
According to the sources, contacts between Suha Arafat and the Palestinian Authority were renewed on Monday night, with the arrival in Paris of Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, and Nabil Sha'ath. After exhaustive negotiations, Suha Arafat agreed to allow Qureia, accompanied by the head of the chairman's personal guard, to enter his room. The visit went ahead yesterday afternoon.
French officials who have been following Yasser Arafat's treatment were astonished to discover that Suha Arafat's constant companion and financial adviser was none other than Pierre Rizk, who headed the intelligence service of the Phalanga during the Lebanese civil war and was in close personal contact with the guerrilla group responsible for the massacre at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp in 1982.
Rizk has been spotted in or near Percy Hospital in recent days. Since Rizk holds power of attorney for Suha Arafat, French and Palestinian officials have been in constant contact with him over Suha Arafat's financial demands, which she says are designed to ensure the financial future of her and her daughter. The outcome of these contacts is still not clear.
Rizk, a Maronite Lebanese, is well known to Israeli officials, and has spent long periods in Israel where he met with government officials and private business figures. Israelis who have met with him in person describe him as a colorful figure, and say that he is something of a womanizer.
Because of his position within the Phalangas, he has extensive contacts with several international intelligence agencies. Living in Paris since his exile from Lebanon, Rizk is an international businessman with operations in Europe and the United States.
In 1999, Rizk won a legal suit he filed in the U.S. courts against the PA. The suit, which created quite a stir in financial circles in the PA, was based on a promise made to Rizk by Yasser Arafat just before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, that he would be granted the license to develop the communications infrastructure in the West Bank.
Rizk obtained a note, signed by Arafat, in which he undertook to award the contract to International Technology Integrated (ITI), a company incorporated in the U.S. At the same time, it now appears that Arafat was handing out similar notes to many other people and companies, promising them jobs, tenders and contracts in his future government.
In practice, none of these promises were ever fulfilled. Unlike other disappointed parties, Rizk decided to sue Arafat for violating his word, and was awarded $18 million. As a result, American banks froze $80 million of the PA's money, threatening its stability. The crisis was eventually ended when the PA sent envoys Paris to negotiate a settlement.