The nephew of former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said Thursday that he opposed French plans to exhume Arafat’s body to check claims he was poisoned, favoring instead an international commission of enquiry.
"We have always thought that it was death by poisoning with unknown substances, there was evidence in this direction, and we have said so from day one," nephew Nasser al-Qidwa told AFP.
"It is not logical that whenever someone wants a commission of inquiry they come up with the exhumation of Arafat for analysis," said Qidwa, president of the Yasser Arafat Foundation.
"It would be better if an analysis of the body were to take place in the framework of an international commission of inquiry, to be set up without delay," he added.
"What is needed now is a political position that places upon Israel the responsibility for the assassination of Arafat," Qidwa said.
Last month, French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry into Arafat's death after the Al-Jazeera news channel broadcast an investigation in which Swiss experts said they found high levels of radioactive polonium on his personal effects.
In July, current PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Arafat's widow Suha both gave their consent for samples to be taken from his remains, which are buried in a mausoleum in Ramallah.
A few weeks ago, the Yasser Arafat Foundation which Qidwa heads said in an official statement there was "no need" for more proof that the former Palestinian Authority leader was poisoned.
Medical files released for the first time several months ago portray Arafat as a robust 75-year-old whose sudden health crisis, a month before his 2004 death, was initially blamed on viral gastroenteritis.
An Israeli specialist, Dr. Joseph Zimmerman, who reviewed the medical file, said Arafat's early symptoms were not consistent with viral gastroenteritis, but also said poisoning seemed unlikely, even by a radioactive agent such as polonium-210.
Zimmerman pointed out that Arafat's platelet counts dropped suddenly and stayed low and that he eventually exhibited signs of liver dysfunction.
“This is not typical of poisoning,” he said, adding that a bacterial infection could have caused these symptoms.