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Ex-Mayor of Bethlehem Freij Dies

March 29, 1998

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Elias Freij, the mayor of Bethlehem for 25 years and a confidant of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, died of kidney and heart failure on Sunday. He was 80.

Freij died in an Amman hospital where he was admitted a week ago for dialysis, said Dr. Samir Saqr, a physician at the Arab Center for Heart Surgery.

``His kidney and heart failed, but he also had a history of high blood pressure and diabetes,″ Saqr told The Associated Press.

Freij’s body will be moved to Bethlehem on Monday, said Omar Khatib, a representative of the Palestinian Authority in Jordan.

He said the funeral will be held on Tuesday.

Freij, a Greek Orthodox Christian, retired last May after serving 25 years as mayor of Bethlehem, which has a Muslim majority. He also resigned from the post of tourism minister in Arafat’s Cabinet after a chronic kidney ailment confined him to bed and required him to undergo dialysis in Jordan.

Freij maintained close contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization during the exile years leading up to a 1993 agreement with Israel that allowed the Palestinians self-rule in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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