Palestinians blame Israel for Arafat's poisoning

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- In the wake of a forensics report claiming that Yasser Arafat was killed by radioactive material, the Palestinian committee investigating his death accused Israel on Friday of poisoning the Palestinian leader.

Speaking at a news conference in Ramallah about the findings of Swiss and Russian experts who conducted tests on Arafat's remains after exhuming his body last November, Tawfik Tirawi, head of the Palestinian committee, said reports from both groups confirmed that Arafat did not die of old age, illness or natural causes, but that he he was poisoned.

Abdullah Bashir, head of the committee's medical team, said the reports confirmed a longstanding belief that Arafat's illness was caused by poisonous material.

"The Swiss report said a large quantity of polonium 210 was found in the samples and also traces of the radioactive material lead 210 were found," Bashir said. "The results prove the theory that Arafat's death was caused by the highly poisonous and radioactive polonium 210."

Bashir said the Russian and Swiss teams agreed that Arafat was likely poisoned, but that the Russian team did not find enough evidence to support the theory that the death was caused by polonium 210 and therefore asked to do more tests and studies.

Tirawi said the investigation into Arafat's death will continue.

"We did not consider the results of these two reports the end of the road," he said. "We will continue with our investigation until we reach the final truth and answer the question: How did Yasser Arafat die?"

Tirawi accused Israel of being behind what he described as "the crime of the 21stcentury."

"Israel is the No. 1 and only suspect in the assassination of Yasser Arafat," he said. "We have enough evidence, facts and data to prove the truth of our theory. We are close to the truth," he said, adding that it would be revealed in the future.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said this week that Israel had nothing to do with Arafat's death. "This whole story is ludicrous and entirely without credibility," he said.

Tirawi said that when the final test results are in, the Palestinian Authority will decide whether to approach the United Nations and its specialized agencies to request an international investigation.

But he cautioned that asking for an international inquiry requires several legal procedures, which will take time.


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