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Arabs ask UN to probe Arafat 'assassination'

During Arab League meeting in Cairo, Arab foreign ministers demand probe into death of Yasser Arafat as part of renewed calls for investigations to be held over the cause of his death

AFP , Wednesday 5 Sep 2012
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Arab foreign ministers on Wednesday called on the United Nations to probe the circumstances of the death of veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, amid suggestions he was poisoned.

The ministers, gathered at the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League, issued a statement calling for the creation "of a neutral commission at the level of the United Nations to probe the circumstances of the assassination" of Arafat.

This was necessary, they said, "in order to know the truth and submit the facts to the United Nations."

The call, issued after talks involving Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, came as the Palestinians on Wednesday gave the green light to a delegation of French judges that was to travel to the West Bank to investigate suspicions Arafat was poisoned.

"We welcome the visit of the French committee that was formed to look into the late president Arafat's death," said a statement from Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the Palestinian committee investigating the circumstances of the veteran leader's death in November 2004.

His remarks came just hours after Arafat's widow Suha said three investigative magistrates were making plans to travel to Ramallah following claims he may have succumbed to poisoning by the radioactive substance polonium.

Last month, French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry into Arafat's death after pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera aired an investigation in which Swiss experts said they found high levels of polonium on his personal effects.

Polonium, a highly toxic substance rarely found outside military and scientific circles, was used to kill former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 in London shortly after drinking tea laced with the poison.

Arafat died in a French military hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004 and French experts were unable say what had killed him, with many Palestinians subscribing to the belief that he was poisoned by Israel.

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