Hani al-Hassan, confidant of late leader Arafat, dies at age 74

Founder-member of Palestine Liberation Organisation

RAMALLAH - Veteran Palestinian nationalist Hani al-Hassan, a confidant of late leader Yasser Arafat, has died aged 74, the Palestinian Authority said on Saturday.
A foreign ministry statement said that Hassan, born in Haifa in 1938, died in the Jordanian capital Amman on Friday. It did not give the cause of death.
With the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 his family joined the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, in their case fleeing to neighbouring Lebanon.
Hassan studied in Germany in the 1950s, where he set up the first Palestinian political organisation in Europe, which joined Arafat's Fatah after its foundation in 1962 in Kuwait.
A former member of the Fatah central committee, Hassan was a political adviser and confidant of Arafat and a founder-member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1964, according to Palestinian think-tank PASSIA.
In 1979 he became the first official Palestinian representative to Iran. From 2002 he was head of Fatah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and then briefly interior minister of the Palestinian Authority.
He differed with colleagues in the Palestinian leadership on several occasions in recent years.
Hostile to the Oslo peace talks of 1993, he instead advocated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under United Nations auspices.
More recently, he criticised the attitude of some Fatah leaders during the showdown with the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, which lost him his position as adviser to president Mahmud Abbas.
A state funeral, attended by Abbas, will be held on Monday at the Palestinian presidential headquarters in Ramallah, the PA said.