TESTS ORDERED BY YASSER ARAFAT'S WIDOW SHOW POLONIUM TRACES|
Posted On: July 5th, 2012
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The discovery of traces of a radioactive element on clothing reportedly worn by Yasser Arafat in his final days reignited a caldron of conspiracy theories Wednesday about the mysterious death of the longtime Palestinian leader.
Arafat's widow, who ordered the tests by a Swiss lab, called for her husband's body to be exhumed, and Arafat's successor gave tentative approval for an autopsy. But experts warned that even after the detection of polonium-210, getting answers on the cause of death will be tough.
Arafat was 75 when he died Nov. 11, 2004, in a French military hospital. He had been airlifted to the facility just weeks earlier with a mysterious illness, after being confined by Israel for three years to his West Bank headquarters.
At the time, French doctors said Arafat died of a massive stroke. According to French medical records, he had suffered inflammation, jaundice and a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC.
But the records were inconclusive about what brought about the DIC, which has numerous causes, including infections, colitis and liver disease.
The uncertainty sparked speculation about the cause of death, including the possibility of AIDS or poisoning. Many in the Arab world believe he was killed by Israel, which held him responsible for the bloody Palestinian uprising of the early 2000s. Israeli officials have repeatedly denied foul play, and they dismissed the latest theories as nonsense.
That debate was reignited when a Swiss lab said Wednesday that it had discovered traces of polonium-210 in clothing and other belongings provided by Arafat's widow, Suha. She told the lab that Arafat had used the items in his final days. The development was first reported by Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite television channel.
In an interview Wednesday in Doha, Qatar, Suha Arafat
strongly hinted that she thinks Israel, which is widely believed to have a nuclear weapons program, was responsible, but stopped short of openly saying so.
"Not the whole world has access to nuclear elements. We have to make a more profound and deep investigation to know all the truth about his death," she said.
Polonium-210 is best known for causing the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a onetime KGB agent turned critic of the Russian government, in London in 2006. Litvinenko drank tea laced with the substance.