RAMALLAH - Russia will join an international
investigation to determine whether the first Palestinian president, Yasser
Arafat, was murdered, the current Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, said on
French and Swiss experts are due to exhume Arafat's body in
Ramallah later this month in an attempt to discover how he died after an Al
Jazeera documentary in July suggested he was killed by a rare radioactive
"There's full cooperation these days between us and the French
investigators and Swiss experts, and also from the Russian government," Abbas
told a rain-drenched ceremony on the eighth anniversary of the death in France
of the former guerrilla who led Palestinians' campaign to create a state through
years of war and peace.
Abbas asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov for Moscow's help during talks in Jordan last week, Palestinian sources
Allegations of foul play have long surrounded the demise of
Meanwhile on Sunday, Arafat's sister called on officials not to exhume his Ramallah grave, Palestinian news agency Maan reported.
The case returned to the headlines in July when a Swiss institute
said it had discovered high levels of the radioactive element polonium-210 on
Arafat's clothing supplied by his widow Suha, who called for exhumation of her
Polonium is the radioactive substance found to have
killed former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
French forensic experts are expected to visit Arafat's limestone sepulchre in
the West Bank capital of Ramallah on Nov. 20, and investigating magistrates plan
to visit four days later, a diplomatic source told Reuters.
Headed by the
intelligence chief at the time of Arafat's death, the Palestinians' own forensic
team has repeatedly butted heads with French investigators over their
supervision of the exhumation, proposed for this month.
official Wasel Abu Yousef described contacts with the French as ongoing but
insisted that interrogating any Palestinians must be done through Abbas's
administration, "as a matter of sovereignty," he told Reuters.
on Monday accused Qatar-based Al Jazeera of "hyping" the affair.
investigation is unfolding as West Bank leaders gear up for a UN General
Assembly vote on Palestinians becoming an "observer state" later this
Arafat's direct kin have rejected an exhumation.
openly that our leader, our founder was assassinated by Israel with poison. The
overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people is convinced of this," Nasser
al-Kidwa, Arafat's nephew and a senior official in Abbas's Fatah group, said on
"Some have spread about the repugnant idea that Arafat's tomb
should be opened up and desecrated. There is no justification for this: we know
the real truth," he said.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.