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Swiss forensics in West Bank to discuss Arafat exhumation

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 5 Nov 2012 14:17 GMT
Author: Reuters
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GENEVA, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Swiss forensic experts are in the West Bank for talks on exhuming the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to investigate whether he may have been poisoned, a spokesman said on Monday.

The team is working closely with the Palestinian Authority and French judicial authorities on the case which is complicated technically, legally and politically, said Darcy Christen, spokesman of Lausanne University Hospital.

"We have sent our best experts for final consultations," Christen told Reuters. "Scientifically it would still be a viable operation if carried out before the end of November."

The Palestinian leader died in a Paris military hospital in November 2004, a month after being flown, seriously ill, from his battered headquarters in Ramallah. No autopsy was carried out and no cause of death was established.

In July the Swiss Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne said it had discovered high levels of the radioactive element polonium-210 on Arafat's clothing supplied by his widow Suha, who has called for exhumation of her husband's body.

Eight years is considered a limit to detect any traces of the deadly radioactive substance, according to the institute, part of the public hospital.

The two experts are Patrice Mangin, chief forensic scientist at the hospital, and Francois Bochud, head of the institute.

It is still not clear if other members of Arafat's family have given their approval for an exhumation and, with time running out, there is widespread scepticism in the West Bank as to whether his body will ever be removed from the mausoleum.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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