They denied claims that Mr Arafat had lost his battle for life as an agreement was reached with Israel on his funeral and burial.

A cabinet minister and a senior official in France had earlier told Agence France Press that Arafat had died at the Percy military hospital in the Paris suburb of Clamart.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei, acting Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Mahmud Abbas, foreign minister Nabil Shaath and the parliament speaker had gone to Paris to see Mr Arafat.

But according to AFP only Mr Qorei had actually visited Mr Arafat at his bedside. “Abu Alaa fainted when he saw the rais (Arafat),” the source added.

However at a press conference, Nabil Shaath insisted that the 75-year-old Arafat was still alive, giving a lengthy account of his condition.

“Now the president is very much alive and his body is resisting,” Mr Shaath said, adding that doctors had ruled out that he was suffering from cancer or poisoning.

Mr Shaath also dismissed any notions that any life support machines used to keep Mr Arafat alive would be unplugged.

He said Mr Arafat, who has led the Palestinian struggle for statehood for the past 40 years, had undergone a barrage of tests to determine what was wrong with him, and had been heavily sedated so he would feel no pain.

During his three-year siege in his Ramallah headquarters at the hands of the Israeli army, Mr Arafat had been suffering from “a variety of digestive tract ailments,” Mr Shaath said.

“So he had serious inflammations of the stomach and the intestines … along with a period without nutrition, and this led to deterioration in the situation of the blood chemistry and the blood composition.”

At a press conference in Ramallah, negotiations minister Saeb Erakat also denied that Mr Arafat had died.

Struggling to fight back tears, he said that Mr Arafat had been suffering from a severe brain haemorrhage.

“All efforts are being made by our friends the French doctors to relieve this haemorrhaging,” Mr Erakat said.

Meanwhile Israeli and Palestinian officials have reached an agreement in principle on funeral arrangements for Mr Arafat, said a Palestinian official.

“Senior Palestinian and Israeli officials have reached an agreement in principle on the arrangements to be made after the death of president Arafat,” the official said.

The have reportedly agreed that the Palestinian leader will eventually be buried in his battered Muqataa compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Earlier, a senior Israeli official, who asked not to be named, said that the two sides would hold talks on the issue “in the night”.

No official announcement on Arafat’s eventual death would be made until “an agreement is reached on his burial,” an Israeli source added.