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Originally published Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 6:14 AM

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Arafat widow says his successors must seek justice

The Palestinian leadership must seek justice for Yasser Arafat after Swiss scientists found evidence suggesting he may have been poisoned by a radioactive substance, his widow said Thursday.


Associated Press

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So dozens of countries have nuclear reactors. There were hundreds if not thousands of... MORE

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RAMALLAH, West Bank —

The Palestinian leadership must seek justice for Yasser Arafat after Swiss scientists found evidence suggesting he may have been poisoned by a radioactive substance, his widow said Thursday.

Suha Arafat spoke to The Associated Press by phone from the Qatari capital of Doha after receiving the results of the Swiss team's examination of her husband's remains.

The 108-page report on the findings was published Wednesday by the Qatar-based satellite TV station Al-Jazeera. The station, along with Mrs. Arafat, had initiated the renewed investigation of Arafat's death last year.

Earlier this year, Arafat's grave was exhumed. The Swiss report said Arafat's remains and burial soil contained elevated levels of polonium-210, a rare and lethal substance.

The scientists concluded that the results "moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210."

Mrs. Arafat confirmed the authenticity of the Swiss team's report published by Al-Jazeera.

The Palestinian leader died in November 2004 at a French military hospital, a month after falling violently ill at his Israeli-besieged West Bank compound. Palestinian officials have alleged from the start that Israel poisoned Arafat, a claim Israel denies.

In her comments Thursday, Suha Arafat did not mention Israel, but argued that only countries with nuclear capabilities have access to polonium.

"I can't accuse any one, but it's clear this is a crime, and only countries with nuclear reactors can have and do that," she said.

"Now the ball is in the hands of the Palestinian Authority. They have to find the tools and pursue the legal case. They can resort to international legal institutions and international courts," she added.

Israeli officials vehemently denied any role in Arafat's death.

Paul Hirschson, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, dismissed the allegations as "hogwash."

Former Israeli official Dov Weisglass said Israel had no motive to kill Arafat at a time when he had been sidelined and isolated at his West Bank compound.

"I can assure you that officially, Israel had nothing to do with it," Weisglass, a senior adviser to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said in a phone interview. "In late 2004, Israel had no reason whatsoever even to consider a step of this kind."

Polonium can be a byproduct of the chemical processing of uranium, but usually is made artificially in a nuclear reactor or a particle accelerator. Israel has a nuclear research center and is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal, but remains ambiguous about the subject.

Mrs. Arafat said the Swiss experts told her that had the remains been examined a year later, traces of polonium would have vanished.

The Palestinian Authority and Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, have so far withheld comment. Abbas was in Amman, Jordan, for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on the fate of slow-moving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The Palestinian committee that has been investigating Arafat's death was to hold a news conference Friday.

___

Associated Press writer Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.



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