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Russian probe rules out Arafat poisoning

Russian scientists say "no impact of radiation" in Palestinian leader's 2004 death, contradicting earlier Swiss report.

Last updated: 26 Dec 2013 22:16
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Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in a French military hospital in 2004, a month after falling ill in Ramallah [EPA]

A Russian investigation into the death of Yasser Arafat has found that the Palestinian leader was not killed by radiation, launching accusations from Palestinian officials and Swiss scientists that the findings are political.

Vladimir Uiba, the head of Russia's Federal Medical and Biological Agency, said on Thursday that Arafat died of natural causes, contradicting an earlier Swiss probe that said Arafat's sudden illness and death were consistent with polonium poisoning.

"It was a natural death; there was no impact of radiation,'' Uiba said, according to Russian news agencies.

Teams of scientists from France, Switzerland and Russia had been asked to determine whether polonium, a rare and extremely lethal substance, played a role in Arafat's death in a French military hospital in 2004.

His body was exhumed in November last year, after Al Jazeera worked with Swiss scientists and found high levels of polonium in Arafat’s blood and urine, which stained his clothes.

Faed Mustafa, the Palestinian ambassador to Russia, said Palestinian authorities would continue to investigate his death.

"We respect [the Russian] position, we highly value their work but there is a decision to continue work," Mustafa told the state RIA Novosti news agency. "We need a result, a final and concrete result to take the issue off the table."

Suha Arafat's lawyer, Saad Djebbar, rejected the findings

In November, Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit obtained  the 15-page study by Russian scientists. It stated that their findings were "inconclusive", yet stated that claims the Palestinian leader died from polonium poisoning were "unsubstantiated".

'Political declaration'

The Russian findings were in line with a French report , released in early December, that ruled out poisoning as the cause of Arafat's death.

They contradicted the Swiss investigation, which found  at least 18 times the normal levels of radioactive polonium in the late Palestinian leader's remains.

Speaking in response to Russia's findings on Thursday, Francois Bochud, director of the Lausanne Radiophysics Institute who examined the samples of Arafat's remains, said the Swiss position remained the same.

"The Russians, they make claims without providing any data, without providing any scientific arguments, for me that is empty, a political declaration," Bochud said, adding that the Swiss had not seen a copy of the Russian study.

Lawyer Saad Djebbar, who represents Arafat's widow, Suha, also rejected the Russian findings as politically motivated.

Palestinians have long suspected Israel of poisoning Arafat, which Israel denies. Arafat died in November 2004, a month after falling ill at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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