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Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died of cirrhosis of the liver, but French doctors were loath to say so because of a common public belief that the disease is the result of alcoholism, a French newspaper reported Wednesday.

The doctors, who were not named because they were violating French law by discussing Arafat's case, described Arafat as "a true water drinker" and not an alcoholic, according to the newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine. Allegations that Arafat was a heavy drinker -- forbidden in Islam -- would have clouded the mourning that began last Thursday, when he died at 75.

The report that Arafat was suffering from cirrhosis was bolstered by an article in another French newspaper, Le Monde, which said Arafat had suffered from "intravascular coagulation," a blood-clotting condition that can be a sign of late-stage liver failure and can be consistent with cirrhosis.

The disease is frequently associated with alcoholism but has many other causes.

Knight Ridder Newspapers

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