Committee: Arafat died from unknown poison
Published Thursday 12/07/2012 (updated) 14/07/2012 18:24
Palestinians hold posters of the late leader Yasser Arafat during a
rally marking the Palestinian declaration of independence in the West
Bank city of Nablus on November 19, 2009.(Maan Images/Rami Swidan)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The head of a medical committee investigating the death of Yasser Arafat said Thursday that the late President died from poisoning, but not could not confirm the use of a radioactive element called polonium.
Abdullah Al-Basheer, a doctor in Jordan, made the comments during a press conference in Ramallah. While not being able to confirm the use of polonium, the element can still not be excluded from current investigations, he said.
Allegations of foul play have long surrounded Arafat's demise in November 2004 after French doctors who treated him in his final days said they could not establish the cause of death.
French medical reports are incomplete, al-Basheer said, adding that a French hospital has refused to provide his medical commission with adequate information to aid its inquiry.
The controversy surrounding Arafat's death was reignited by an Al Jazeera expose last week in which the Swiss Radiophysics Institute said it found "surprisingly" high levels of polonium-210 on Arafat's clothing - the same substance used to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
The Swiss institute said, however, that the symptoms described in the Palestinian president's medical reports were not consistent with the radioactive agent.
The Palestinian Authority has agreed to exhume his body from Ramallah to complete investigations, but has yet to set a date to carry it out.
Allegations of foul play - and of Palestinian involvement in it - have long marked factional fighting among Palestinians.
Reuters contributed to this report