Swiss lab wants guarantee in Arafat death inquiry (REUTERS) By Noah Browning RAMALLAH, West Bank 08/08/12 5:54pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - A Swiss laboratory will help investigate the unexplained
2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat only if it receives
guarantees its findings will not be used for political purposes, a
spokesman for the lab said on Wednesday.
A committee looking into the Palestinian president´s death has asked
the Swiss Radiophysics Institute, which found traces of a deadly
polonium isotope on Arafat´s clothing provided by his widow for a
recent Al Jazeera television documentary, to examine his remains.
"We have been invited by the Palestinian National Authority and we
are currently studying the most appropriate way of responding to this
request," Darcy Christen, spokesman for the institute, said in an
emailed reply to a Reuters question.
"Meanwhile, our main concern is to guarantee the independence, the
credibility and the transparency of any involvement that we may
have," Christen said.
Arafat was a guerilla-turned-statesman who came to symbolize the
Palestinian quest for statehood throughout decades of war and peace
After being stricken with an ailment which remains unknown, the
president was airlifted to France in 2004 when he fell ill during an
extended siege Israel mounted on his compound during a Palestinian
uprising. He died shortly thereafter.
His death aroused rumors among Palestinians of an assassination,
which many blamed on Israel. An investigation into the case could
rekindle Palestinian hostility toward Israel and widespread
suspicions that a local collaborator may have poisoned him under
directions from the Jewish state.
Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the committee looking into the death, told
reporters the Swiss institute was seeking assurances before sending
experts to the Palestinians´ administrative capital in Ramallah, but
did not disclose the nature of those guarantees.
"The content of our correspondence pertained to the necessity of
their arrival and our welcoming of their presence in Palestine as
quickly as possible, but they have some legal issues and legal
procedures," Tirawi said.
Exhuming Arafat´s body from its limestone mausoleum in the center of
the Palestinian Authority´s presidential compound in Ramallah would
be a deeply emotional move for Palestinians, but one for which the
local investigative committee says the government and his family are
"We´ve asked for (the Swiss team´s) arrival at full speed...the
leadership has resolved to grant them any investigations they might
request," Tirawi said.
After the Arafat documentary was aired, his widow Suha petitioned a
French court to open a murder probe, claiming the circumstances of
his death had been mysterious and French forensic authorities had
disposed of samples taken from his body with undue haste.
Palestinian officials have called for an international investigation
into the case, along the lines of the United Nations Special Tribunal
for slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and the Arab
League has formed a special committee to advocate for a United
(Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Ali Sawafta in
Ramallah; Editing by Michael Roddy) (© Thomson Reuters 2012.
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