The opposition periodical, Al-Majd, which is considered close to Syria, quoted unidentified high-ranking Palestinian sources as saying the president of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmad Qurai, known as Abu Alaa, is Arafat's most likely successor.
They said Abu Alaa has the upper hand over another favored candidate, Mahmud Abbas, who goes by the name of Abu Mazen and is secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization,
The sources said Arafat was almost acquiescent about stepping down willingly after being briefed about a U.S. and Israeli request to replace him as a condition for restarting peace negotiations and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
They said Arafat was granted a last chance to think about the best way to step down, and that if he did so, he would most likely choose to retire to a home in territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority, rather than go into exile in Egypt, Jordan or Tunisia.
The reports about Arafat's projected departure coincided with denials by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt that they were involved in contacts aimed at ousting him.