New report casts doubt on Arafat poisoning theory

Suha Arafat attends a news conference in Paris. The widow of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says an extensive investigation into his death by French scientists has ruled out poisoning by radioactive polonium.
(Jacques Brinon / Associated Press)

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Leaks from test results French scientists had conducted on samples taken last year from the remains of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat added more confusion Tuesday to the debate over Arafat’s death.

According to the leaks, widely published by news agencies, the French results did not confirm that Arafat died from poison and suggested that he probably died of natural causes.

“The report rules out the poisoning theory,” Agence France-Presse quoted an unidentified source as saying.

That contradicted earlier conclusions by Swiss experts who found “unexpectedly high levels” of radioactive polonium-210 and lead-210 in the remains. The Swiss report said the lab results “moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210.”


A report by a third team, consisting of Russian experts, did not find sufficient evidence of polonium poisoning, but said more work was needed before drawing a conclusion.

Reuters quoted the new Swiss report as saying that the levels of polonium 210 and other radioactive substances were “consistent with a natural environmental origin.”

Arafat died at a French hospital in November 2004 after falling seriously ill while under Israeli army siege at his Ramallah headquarters. The French hospital destroyed all tests conducted on him shortly after his death, prompting Palestinians to suspect a coverup.

The Associated Press on Tuesday quoted Arafat’s widow, Suha, who lives in France, saying that she was “upset by these contradictions by the best European experts on the matter.”


Tawfik Tirawi, head of a Palestinian committee investigating Arafat’s death, refused to comment on the French leaks and said that “the Palestinians have not yet received the French report.”

Tirawi had earlier said that he was going to announce in his last news conference on Arafat’s death the names of the people responsible for it.

Though Palestinians have accused Israel of being responsible for his death, some believe that Palestinians would have had to corroborate with Israel to put poison in his food or medicine while he was under siege in Ramallah.

Israel has denied any responsibility for Arafat’s death. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the French findings were “not a surprise.”



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