GENEVA - A Swiss institute has agreed to a request from the Palestinian Authority to exhume Yasser Arafat's body and determine whether he was poisoned, but time is running out for a credible scientific examination of his remains, it said on Thursday.
The Palestinian leader died in a Paris military hospital in November 2004, a month after being flown, seriously ill, from his battered headquarters in Ramallah. Eight years is considered a limit to detect any traces of the deadly radioactive substance, the Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne said.
It has written to the Palestinian Authority accepting its request to conduct the probe, spokesman Darcy Christen said. But it requires the permission of his widow Suha and a French court which opened a murder inquiry on Tuesday.
"We confirm that we are available. We confirm that we are willing to move fast," Christen told Reuters in Geneva. "Unfortunately, for the time being we are waiting for the position of French judicial authorities and Mrs. Arafat."
No autopsy was carried out when Arafat died, aged 75, in keeping with his widow's request, and no cause of death was established. He had been effectively confined by Israel to his compound for two and a half years and his body is in a limestone sepulchre in Ramallah.