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Yasser Arafat poisoning allegations challenged by French research group

Yasser Arafat poisoning allegations challenged by French research group

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French researchers investigating the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat do not believe that he was poisoned, the BBC reports. Leaked portions of the French researchers' report — which has not been published — reportedly conclude that Arafat died of a "generalized infection," calling into question a recent Swiss report that concluded he may have been poisoned. According to the BBC, the results come from an exhumation of Arafat last year intended to address whether foul play was involved in his death. French, Swiss, and Russian researchers were allowed to gather samples.

Similar results, different interpretations

Reuters reports that both the French and Swiss researchers found the same levels of polonium-210 — the radioactive isotope alleged to have poisoned Arafat — in his system, but that they differ in explaining how it got there. While the Swiss researchers believe that it may have been the result of poisoning, the French researchers reportedly found that some of it could be explained by the presence of radon gas in the tomb that Arafat was buried in. Reuters says that the French report is not set to be published.

The investigation into Arafat's death began in 2011, when the Swiss group sampled clothing worn by Arafat around the time of his death. The Swiss researchers' results were published in a 2012 Al Jazeera documentary, which prompted the later exhumation. According to the BBC, Palestinian officials said the Russian report — which was released last month — did not contain "sufficient evidence" to support allegations of a poisoning.

Arafat died in a French hospital in 2004 from what was then reported as a stroke caused by a blood disorder. Reuters reports that his death came just four weeks after he initially fell ill, suffering from vomiting and stomach pains after eating a meal. According to the BBC, Arafat's widow, Suha Arafat, supported the recent exhumation and investigation into her husband's death. She has also filed a lawsuit in France alleging that he was murdered.

"The next press conference will be the last."

The Palestinian Authority has its own inquiry into Arafat's death too, and it says that it will produce results soon. "I promise that the next press conference will be the last, and will cast into the light of day everyone who perpetrated, took part in or conspired in the matter," investigation leader Tawfiq Tirawi told Palestine Today television, reports Reuters. "We are in the last 15 minutes of the investigation."