(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dov Weissglas, bureau chief to former prime minister Ariel Sharon, on Sunday firmly denied allegations raised last week by estranged senior PLO figure Farouk Kaddoumi that Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas conspired to kill Yasser Arafat.
"I was present at all the meetings between President Abbas and Sharon," Weissglas told The Jerusalem Post, "and I would like to state in the clearest possible terms that nothing like this was ever discussed - not directly, not indirectly; not explicitly; not implicitly. The accusation is a complete lie."
The PLO last week condemned Kaddoumi as "deranged" and vowed to expel him over the allegation.
Kaddoumi had told reporters in Amman that, before he died in 2004, Arafat handed him the purported protocol of a meeting where Abbas, former PA security chief Muhammad Dahlan, Sharon and US intelligence officers allegedly planned to assassinate the former PA chairman.
Kaddoumi presented the reporters with a summary of the ostensible protocol in which Sharon purportedly told Abbas and Dahlan that they must also work toward eliminating the political and military leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Sharon was also quoted, according to the "protocol," as telling Abbas and Dahlan that the first step should be to kill Arafat with poison.
Dismissing all these claims as "baseless fabrication," Weissglas speculated that Kaddoumi had concocted them because of internal Palestinian rivalries.
"The rumor that Israel had a hand in Arafat's death is not new," he noted. "I can testify that it is completely unfounded."
Weissglas recalled that, at the time of Arafat's illness in late 2004, Sharon first gave immediate permission for him to be examined by doctors in Ramallah, and then, a day later, for him to be allowed to fly to Europe for medical treatment.
"It was also made clear that, were he well enough, he would be allowed to return," Weissglas said. "In other words, we did everything asked of us to enable appropriate medical care."
Arafat's widow, Suha, issued a statement on Sunday in which she denied reports that her husband had told her about the alleged plot to poison him.
A report in a Turkish newspaper had claimed that Arafat showed her the "protocol" before his death.
"I deny and condemn Kaddoumi for exploiting the martyrdom of the president and symbol for settling personal accounts that are totally unrelated to the interests of the Palestinian people and their struggle against occupation," she said. "This ostensible protocol actually exonerates Israel from its responsibility [for the death of Arafat]."
The PLO Executive Committee, a key decision-making body, said last week its members were planning to hold an emergency meeting soon to discuss Kaddoumi's allegations and the possibility of taking legal and disciplinary measures against him.
The committee described Kaddoumi's accusations as "hysterical," adding that the veteran PLO official had "lost his political and psychological balance."
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.