'Swiss Lab to Analyse Arafat Remains for Poisoning'

Geneva (AFP)
'Swiss Lab to Analyse Arafat Remains for Poisoning'
A Swiss radiology lab said today it has received the go-ahead from the widow of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to test his remains for poisoning by polonium, a highly radioactive element.

"We are waiting for a formal, written letter from the lawyer before travelling to Ramallah" to carry out the probe, a spokesman for the lab at the Lausanne University Hospital Centre, Darcy Christen, told AFP.

"Time is of the essence, you could say it's a question of weeks, not months, because the traceability of polonium diminishes by half every 138 days," Christen said, noting that this has occurred 20 times since Arafat died aged 75 on November 11, 2004.

The Palestinian Authority also approved the probe, which was requested by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas after a media investigation found elevated levels of polonium on some of Arafat's belongings, including clothing he wore before he died at a military hospital outside Paris.

A statement from French lawyers acting for Arafat's widow Suha Arafat and their daughter Zawra welcomed the authority's comments.

"We are glad that the position of the Palestinian Authority is to accept the exhumation of the body of Yasser Arafat," Pierre-Olivier Sur and Jessica Finelle wrote.

"However, we consider that this act of enquiry should be in coordination with the French investigating system... Which should appoint an investigating judge to conduct the necessary enquiries," the statement said, adding that such an appointment must be made "very quickly."

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Arafat is buried, Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the Palestinian committee probing his death, told AFP today that he had "not so far been officially informed" of a decision by the Swiss lab.
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