Arafat Belongings Test High For Radioactivity, Scientist Says

By: CNN - Posted by Giang Nguyen
By: CNN - Posted by Giang Nguyen

(CNN) -- Scientific tests have found unusually high levels of the radioactive substance polonium-210 in some of the personal effects of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, one of the scientists involved in the study said Wednesday.

The results do not mean that Arafat suffered radiation poisoning, François Bochud told CNN.

Some details in Arafat's medical records are not consistent with polonium poisoning, he explained.

"We have evidence there is too much polonium, but we also have hints from the medical records that this may not be the case. The only way to resolve this anomaly would be by testing the body," said Bochud, director of Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland.

His research team tested Arafat's toothbrush, clothing and keffiyeh, the trademark black-and-white scarf he always wore, Bochud said.

The Palestinian Authority has no objections to having Arafat's body exhumed and tested by reliable scientific authorities if his family approves, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.
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There is no religious or political reason that would prevent further research into the issue, including examination of the remains, the Palestinian news agency WAFA cited him as saying.

It should be possible to measure any remaining polonium in Arafat's body despite the length of time since his death because he was buried in a tomb, not underground, Bochud said.

Arafat died in 2004 at the age of 75 at a military hospital in France. He had flown to Paris two weeks earlier for the treatment of a blood disorder, Palestinian officials said at the time.

Arafat's widow, Suha, asked the Swiss institute to analyze some of his belongings and medical documents, Bochud said.

The Qatar-based satellite network Al Jazeera relayed the request and broadcast a report about the tests Tuesday.

There was no evidence of traditional poison, Bochud said. Al Jazeera and the family then asked him to test for radioactive material, he said.

They found an "unexplained amount of polonium-210," he said, cautioning: "We are testing tiny quantities so it is difficult to measure and not conclusive."

Bochud did not specify how high the levels were or what level would be dangerous.

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died of polonium poisoning in London in 2006.

Arafat's condition at the time he died was not entirely consistent with polonium poisoning, Bochud said.

"For example, the bone marrow stayed in good shape until (the) death of Arafat. In other cases of polonium poisoning there is a decaying of the bone marrow," the medical expert said. "Another point, he did not lose his hair as would be expected in the case of polonium (poisoning)."

Scientists performed more than 50 measurements on the belongings between February and June, he said.


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