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Lausanne, Switzerland - Possible traces of radioactive poison will be lost forever if the remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are not analyzed soon, the Lausanne institute involved in the investigation said Wednesday.
Radiation physicists at the university hospital in Lausanne recently found traces of polonium on the clothes of Arafat, who died in 2004 near Paris.
French judges are seeking to go to Ramallah in the West Bank to have the leader's remains exhumed as part of their investigation into his death, his widow Suha Arafat told French news agency AFP on Wednesday.
“It only makes sense to do that by October or November,” said Darcy Christen, spokesman at the Lausanne hospital. Because of the speed at which polonium disintegrates over time, the element would no longer be found in the bone tissue any later than that, he told dpa.
It would take three to four months to analyse the samples, Christen added.
The Swiss experts have received an invitation from the Palestinian Authority to take and analyze the samples in Ramallah, but Christen did not rule out that French scientists might end up doing this work.
French prosecutors launched a formal investigation into Arafat's death on Tuesday, based on a complaint by his widow, who had tasked the Lausanne team with analyzing the clothes.
According to medical records, the 75-year-old Palestinian leader died of a brain haemorrhage, which was brought on by a bowel infection. But Palestinians have accused Israel of poisoning him. - Sapa-dpa