Abbas Approves Arafat Exhumation
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has approved the exhumation of late PLO arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat's body.
Abbas' approval comes days after scientists in Switzerland said they found high levels of the radioactive element Polonium-210 on some of Arafat's personal belongings.
However, the scientists were careful to point out that their conclusions, in of themselves, did not necessarily mean Arafat died of radiation poisoning.
"We have evidence there is too much polonium, but we also have hints from the medical records that this may not be the case," Francois Bochud, director of the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland said.
"The only way to resolve this anomaly would be by testing the body," he added.
Bochud's research team tested Arafat's toothbrush, clothing and keffiyeh, the trademark black-and-white headscarf he often wore, Bochud said.
A body fluid stain contained 180 megabecquerels per liter of the radioactive isotope, Bochud said. A typical sample would contain 5 megabecquerels per liter. A becquerel is a unit of measurement of radioactivity.
The fabric of Arafat's clothing, without body fluid, contained less than 10 megabecquerels per liter, Bochud said.
"The president is making all the contacts for the process to be done," PLO executive committee Hanan Ashrawi said of Abbas.
"The remains will be exhumed for them to take whatever necessary samples to carry out the required tests," she said when asked if Arafat was indeed poisoned.
Medical experts from Switzerland will travel to Ramallah to take samples from the body, Ashrawi said.
Arafat died at age 75 at a Paris military hospital after he suffered a brain hemorrhage and slipped into a coma.
Officials in Ramallah said in the days before his death that Arafat had a blood disorder -- though they ruled out leukemia -- and that he had digestive problems.
Rumors of poisoning circulated at the time, but PA officials have denied them to date. Former PA foreign minister Nabil Sha'ath said he "totally" ruled poisoning out.
Additionally, Arafat's nephew Nasser al-Kidwa said in 2004 that medical records showed no cause of death for his uncle.
Al-Kidwa, who was a PA observer to the United Nations at the time, told reporters toxicology tests showed "no known poison."
However, now, PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashwari says Ramallah is now taking the possibility Arafat was poisoned seriously.
"The suspicion that he was killed, that he was deliberately murdered, has been there all along, and most Palestinians believe that," Ashrawi said last week. "I personally believed it because I was with him; I saw him; I saw the transformation, and it certainly was unnatural."
"But we didn't have any kind of thread, any kind of evidence," Ashwari said. "This report, in many ways, tells us our suspicions are founded, that there is sufficient evidence to say that he was killed, that he was assassinated using polonium."
The decision to exhume Arafat's body as once-dismissed poisoning rumors again raise their head comes as Abbas finds himself under mounting international pressure to return to the negotiating table with Israel.