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Suha Arafat, the widow of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, has been stripped of her Tunisian citizenship and was asked to leave Tunisia together with her 12-year-old daughter, Zahwa, Palestinian sources in Ramallah said on Monday.
The sources told The Jerusalem Post that Suha was now staying in Malta with her brother, Jubran Tawil, who serves as Palestinian Authority ambassador there.
"The Tunisians have kicked her out," the sources said. "Apparently they were unhappy with her conduct."
Other sources claimed that Suha, who is said to have inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from her husband, was expelled following a business dispute with some of her Tunisian partners.
The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi said Tunisian President Zine El-Abidin Ben-Ali issued a presidential decree last week revoking Suha's citizenship. The paper did not mention the reason why her citizenship was revoked.
A Tunisian newspaper, Al-Raed, said the decree, which carried the number 1976, stated: "The Tunisian citizenship granted to Suha Daoud Tawil, who was born in Jerusalem on July 17, 1963, is to be revoked."
The newspaper said the decision meant that Suha would also be deprived of her "moral and material rights" in the country. It's not clear at this stage if Suha's bank accounts had also been frozen.
Suha moved to Tunis shortly after her husband's death in November 2004. Before that, she and her daughter had been living in Paris for nearly a decade.
Suha is believed to have struck a deal with Arafat's successors according to which she will receive about $22 million a year.
In 2006 she was granted Tunisian citizenship and a villa.
Unconfirmed reports said she recently married businessman Bilhassan Tarabulsi, the brother of the Tunisian president's wife. Suha, however, denied the reports.
Tunisian journalist Tawfik al-Ayyashi revealed that Suha had been involved in a number of economic projects in the country.
Suha and her daughter are now living in an undisclosed location in the northern part of the island.
Other family members may have joined Suha and Zahwa in Malta, immigration sources told the Web site www.maltastar.com.
According to some reports, Suha's mother, Raymonda, a prominent journalist and writer, has also arrived in Malta.
Suha was raised as a Catholic in Ramallah and Nablus and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Suha met Yasser Arafat when she was on assignment in Jordan for a French newspaper. She was immediately appointed as a public relations adviser to the PLO and later as an economic consultant to her husband.
The two married secretly in 1990 at Arafat's house in Tunisia and kept the wedding secret for 15 months.
Suha drew sharp criticism from many Palestinians when she tried to prevent senior PA officials, including PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, from visiting her husband while he was being treated in a military hospital in Paris.
In a screaming telephone interview with the pan-Arabic satellite television channel Al-Jazeera, Suha accused Abbas and then-PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei of conspiring to take her husband's place.
"Let it be known to the honest Palestinian people that a bunch of those who want to inherit are coming to Paris," she said in her appeal in Arabic.
"You have to realize the size of the conspiracy. I tell you they are trying to bury Abu Ammar alive," she said, using Arafat's nom de guerre. "He is all right and he is going home."