MOSCOW - The head of a Russian forensics agency said on Tuesday that samples from the body of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had revealed no traces of radioactive polonium, a Russian news agency reported.
However, the government scientific body later denied that it had made any official statement about the research, saying only that it had handed its results to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
If confirmed, the findings would deal a blow to Palestinian suspicions that Arafat was assassinated by Israel - a theory fueled by a Swiss lab report last year which found unusual amounts of the deadly isotope polonium on his clothes.
A Palestinian medical team took samples from Arafat's corpse in the West Bank last year and gave them to Swiss, French and Russian forensic teams in an attempt to determine whether he was murdered with the hard-to-trace radioactive poison.
"He could not have been poisoned with polonium. The research conducted by Russian experts found no traces of this substance," the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Vladimir Uiba, who heads the Federal Medico-Biological Agency (FMBA), as saying.
Uiba said experts from the FMBA had conducted a detailed study of Arafat's remains.
The agency later sought to distance itself from the comments. "The FMBA of Russia has made no official statement about the results of research on the remains of Yasser Arafat," the FMBA's press service said.