French forensic experts find Arafat did not die of poisoning, source says

Leaked report contradicts Swiss experts; radiation scientist says both studies found similar levels of Polonium 210 in Arafat's body.

By REUTERS
December 3, 2013 19:44
2 minute read.
Yasser Arafat at the UN General Assembly, November 11, 2001.

Yasser Arafat looking unhappy 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

 
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PARIS - French forensic tests have concluded that former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did not die of poisoning, as had been suggested by an earlier report, a source who saw the conclusions of the report said on Tuesday.

"The results of the analyses allow us to conclude that the death was not the result of poisoning," the source told Reuters, quoting from conclusions of a report by French forensic experts handed over to Arafat's widow Suha.

Swiss forensic experts said last month that results from their tests of samples taken from Arafat's body were consistent with polonium poisoning but were not absolute proof of the cause of death.

Arafat died in a French hospital in November 2004, four weeks after falling ill after a meal, suffering from vomiting and stomach pains.

The official cause of death was a massive stroke, but French doctors said at the time they were unable to determine the origin of his illness. No autopsy was carried out.

A lawyer for Suha Arafat said her legal team would do a counter-expertise and was confident it would show that the French findings would in fact support the Swiss conclusions.

"We have no doubt that the most comprehensive and thorough report that examined all aspects of this case remains the Swiss report," Saad Djebbar told Reuters.

The French report is not due to be published.


A radiation scientist who examined the Swiss and the French reports for Suha Arafat said both studies had found similar levels of Polonium 210 in Arafat's body but differed in their explanations of how it got there.

The scientist, who declined to be named, said the French report concluded that some of the radioactivity could be explained by the presence of radon gas in the tomb where Arafat was buried.

Separately, a Palestinian investigator said on Tuesday he would soon name the people he believed were responsible for the death of Arafat, almost a decade after he started searching for suspects.

Many Palestinians have long believed Israel killed him - a charge Israel flatly denies - but an official Palestinian Authority investigation headed by Tawfiq Tirawi has yet to produce any evidence.

Arafat's widow has also said that a member of Arafat's own inner circle was responsible, stoking tensions among senior officials.

"I promise that the next press conference will be the last, and will cast into the light of day everyone who perpetrated, took part in or conspired in the matter," Tirawi told Palestine Today television.

"We are in the last 15 minutes of the investigation," he added.

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