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Middle East

PLO officials call for Arafat inquiry

Executive committee member says Arafat's poisoning by polonium was a crime "committed by a state".

Last updated: 08 Nov 2013 10:22
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Members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation have called for an international inquiry into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a day after Swiss scientists said he probably died from polonium poisoning.

A report by Swiss experts, obtained by Al Jazeera, showed that Arafat's exhumed remains contained 18 times the natural levels of the highly radioactive isotope, polonium-210.

Swiss forensic report on Arafat's death

"The [test] results proved Arafat was poisoned by polonium, and this substance is owned by states, not people, meaning that the crime was committed by a state," said Wasel Abu Yusef, a member of the PLO's executive committee.

"Just as a committee was formed to investigate the killing of [Lebanese prime minister] Rafiq Hariri, there must be an international committee to investigate the killing of president Arafat," he told AFP on Thursday.

The central committee of the Fatah party, which is headed by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and which dominates the PLO, was to meet on Thursday to discuss its findings.

Qais Abd al-Karim, another member of the PLO's executive committee, told Al Jazeera the report may prompt the committee to push for an "independent and internationally credible investigation into this crime".

"Only Israelis have the means and the motives in order to commit this crime. This is a scandal and a crime that makes the Israeli's responsible for such atrocities and I think that it is necessary that they should be responsible in front of international justice and they should pay for their crime."

Meanwhile, a top aide to former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon said on Thursday that Sharon had ordered that no harm be done to Arafat.

"Ariel Sharon insisted that everything be done to ensure that Arafat, who was at the time living inside his besieged Muqataa compound, was not killed by our soldiers," Raanan Gissin told AFP, in reference to a 2002-2004 Israeli siege of the president's Ramallah headquarters.

"His instructions were to take every precaution to avoid Israel being accused of Arafat's death," said Gissin, who served as Sharon's spokesman.

Swiss scientists, who carried out tests on Arafat's remains, concluded he probably died from polonium poisoning, according to a text of their findings published by Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

The results "moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210," said the 108-page analysis.

Arafat died in France on November 11, 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. No autopsy was carried out at the time, in line with his widow's request.

His remains were exhumed in November 2012 and samples taken, partly to investigate whether he had been poisoned - a suspicion that grew after the assassination of Russian ex-spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

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