Claims former French president knows real cause of death but withheld it from public for fear of further destabilizing ME.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Bassam Abu Sharif, who for many years served as an adviser to Yasser Arafat, claimed on Saturday that the former Palestinian Authority chairman died after being poisoned by Israel.
Abu Sharif said the poison that was injected into Arafat's body halted the production of red blood cells, leading to his death.
He refused to provide further details, claiming that such a move might hamper efforts to capture those responsible in the future. "It's not my duty, and it wouldn't be wise, to give an advance warning to the perpetrator," he said.
French doctors who treated Arafat at a military hospital near Paris said he died of a massive stroke after suffering intestinal inflammation, jaundice and a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC.
Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, Abu Sharif, who himself was the target of an Israeli assassination attempt in the 1970s, accused former French president Jacques Chirac of covering up for the alleged conspiracy.
"Chirac has deliberately kept his information secret in order to protect Palestinian interests," he said. The three doctors who treated Arafat also knew how Arafat died and the type of poison that was used, he added.
A commission of inquiry set up by the PA leadership has failed to determine the cause of Arafat's sudden illness and death in late November 2004, triggering a wave of speculation that some of his closest aides had conspired with Israel to kill him.
Some reports have suggested that Arafat may have died of AIDS, but to date no one has been able to confirm this theory.
This is not the first time that a senior PA official accuses Israel of poisoning Arafat. Hamas leaders have long been accusing Arafat's top aides of conspiring with Israel to kill Arafat.
Shortly after Arafat's death, Abu Sharif revealed that he had sent a letter to Arafat warning him against an attempt to assassinate him by putting poison in his food. The letter did not say who was behind the alleged plot.
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