PLO official urges global probe into Arafat 'killing'

AFP , Thursday 7 Nov 2013

The central committee of the PLO will meet, under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the latest findings concerning the killing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat

File Photo: Palestinian President Yasser Arafat enters a helicopter as he leaves his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 29 October 2004 (Photo: Reuters)

A PLO official on Thursday called for an international inquiry into "the killing" of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a day after Swiss scientists said he probably died from polonium poisoning.

"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 Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee.

"Just as a committee was formed to investigate the killing of (slain Lebanese prime minister) Rafiq Hariri, there must be a international committee to investigate the killing of president Arafat," he told AFP.

The central committee of the Fatah party, which is headed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and which dominates the PLO, was to meet on Thursday at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) to discuss the latest findings, said senior party official Amin Maqbul.

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 television on Wednesday.

The results "moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210," said the 108-page analysis posted on the Qatar-based satellite broadcaster's website.

The experts who penned the report are also to give a news conference in Lausanne on Thursday at 1245 GMT to discuss the results.

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.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Arafat's widow Suha denounced the poisoning as "a political crime" and the "assassination of a great leader."

"I don't know who did it, but it's terrible," she said.

Israel's foreign ministry scoffed at the notion that Arafat had been poisoned, suggesting that the investigation was not impartial.

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