Palestinians call for Arafat death probe

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iol pic wld Yasser Arafat879 REUTERS Palestinians women walk past a mural depicting late leader Yasser Arafat (R) and late Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City.

The Palestinians are seeking an international probe into Yasser Arafat's death to finally “close the file” on his mysterious death, their foreign minister said on Thursday.

The demand was backed by Tunisia, which called for an urgent meeting of the Arab League and the formation of an international commission of inquiry.

“We are waiting for this Tunisian initiative to be translated into action and for the meeting to be held,” foreign minister Riyad al-Malki told the official Voice of Palestine radio.

“Then we will ask for an international investigation committee to be formed similar to the one formed into the assassination of (Lebanese Prime Minister) Rafiq Hariri so we can solve so many of the unanswered questions,” he added.

“We want to show that the PA (Palestinian Authority) leadership and people are all anxious to know all the details surrounding Arafat's death, so we can close this file,” he said.

On Tuesday, Al-Jazeera television broadcast the results of a nine-month probe it commissioned into the 2004 death of the iconic Palestinian leader that indicated he could have been poisoned with the radioactive substance polonium.

The next day Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas endorsed exhuming Arafat's body from its mausoleum at the Palestinian presidency headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah for a forensic examination.

The supreme Palestinian Islamic authority, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein, said there was no religious law forbidding Arafat's exhumation.

“If it is necessary to examine a body for the needs of an inquiry and that requires its full or partial retrieval there is nothing to prevent that,” he told AFP on Thursday.

In Tunisia, Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said: “We call for an urgent meeting of Arab League foreign ministers and the creation of an international committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.

“We owe a debt to that great man, who had such an influence on the Palestinian national cause.”

Tunis hosted the Palestine Liberation Organisation, of which Arafat was the chairman, after it was expelled from Lebanon during the 1982 Israeli invasion until the 1994 launch of Palestinian autonomy.

The Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne tested items belonging to Arafat at Al-Jazeera's request, including clothing worn by him, which were handed to his widow Suha by the Paris hospital where he died in November 2004 at the age of 75.

Suha Arafat gave Al-Jazeera permission to take the items, which contained strands of Arafat's hair and traces of sweat, urine and blood, for testing at several European laboratories, including the Switzerland institute, which reported finding high levels of polonium. - AFP


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