Yasser Arafat's Body To Be Exhumed Next Week

Yasser Arafat's Body To Be Exhumed Next Week

The body of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed next week to try to establish whether he was poisoned.

Experts will take samples from Mr Arafat's remains as part of a fresh inquiry into his death in November 2004 after a sudden deterioration in his health.

A murder inquiry was launched in France earlier this year when tests carried out by a Swiss institute detected traces of the lethal radioactive substance polonium-210 on his clothing.

Polonium-210 is the substance that was used to assassinate the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London six years ago. It is usually only found in medical or military environments.

Mr Arafat's tomb in the West Bank city of Ramallah will be opened for a few hours on Tuesday for tests to be carried out by Swiss, French and Russian experts.

A reburial ceremony with full military honours will be held later the same day.

Tawfik Tirawi, the former Palestinian intelligence chief who is leading the investigation, said: "November 27 will be one of the most painful days of my life for personal reasons as well as patriotic, political and religious ones.

"But it is necessary in order to get to the painful truth behind Yasser Arafat's death."

Palestinian officials have remained convinced Mr Arafat was poisoned by Israel. Israel denies the allegations.

Mr Tirawi said: "As patriotic Palestinians, we remain convinced that the Israelis assassinated president Arafat, and at the inquiry level, we have evidence leading in this direction.”

There has been continued speculation about Mr Arafat's death. 

He died aged 75 at a military hospital just outside Paris after being moved there from his West Bank compound.

French doctors said that he suffered a brain haemorrhage but, at his widow's request, no post-mortem was conducted.

The French authorities launched an official murder inquiry in August but some medical experts in France have cast doubt on the polonium-210 theory.

Marcel Francis-Kahn, the former chief of rheumatology at Paris's Bichat hospital, said: "The hypothesis of polonium does not stand up to scrutiny."

He explained that Mr Arafat suffered no traditional symptoms of radiation poisoning such as hair loss and a notable drop in white blood cells.