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French report: No proof Arafat was poisoned

Suha Arafat attends a press conference in Paris , France Tuesday. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's widow says extensive investigation by French scientists has ruled out poisoning by radioactive polonium. Scientists from several countries have tried to determine what killed Arafat and whether polonium played a role. He died in a French military hospital in 2004. Palestinians have long suspected Israel of poisoning him, which Israel denies. Suha Arafat told reporters in Paris on Tuesday that the French scientists' report excludes the possibility of polonium poisoning. That's in contrast to a recent Swiss lab report that said Arafat was probably poisoned by polonium, a rare and extremely lethal substance. Suha Arafat said she's "upset by these contradictions by the best European experts on the matter." The French report is part of an ongoing French legal investigation into whether Arafat was murdered. AP photo

Suha Arafat attends a press conference in Paris , France Tuesday. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's widow says extensive investigation by French scientists has ruled out poisoning by radioactive polonium. Scientists from several countries have tried to determine what killed Arafat and whether polonium played a role. He died in a French military hospital in 2004. Palestinians have long suspected Israel of poisoning him, which Israel denies. Suha Arafat told reporters in Paris on Tuesday that the French scientists' report excludes the possibility of polonium poisoning. That's in contrast to a recent Swiss lab report that said Arafat was probably poisoned by polonium, a rare and extremely lethal substance. Suha Arafat said she's "upset by these contradictions by the best European experts on the matter." The French report is part of an ongoing French legal investigation into whether Arafat was murdered. AP photo

PARIS — French scientists looking into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have dismissed poisoning by radioactive polonium, his widow announced Tuesday. The results contradict earlier findings by a Swiss lab, and mean it’s still unclear how Arafat died nine years ago.

Teams of scientists from three countries were appointed to determine whether polonium played a role in his death in a French military hospital in 2004. Palestinians have long suspected Israel of poisoning him, which Israel denies.

As part of that investigation, French investigators had Arafat’s remains exhumed and ordered genetic, toxicology, medical, anatomical and radiation tests on them. Suha Arafat and her lawyers were notified Tuesday of the results, less than a month after the Swiss team issued their report.

The French experts found traces of polonium but came to different conclusions than the Swiss about where they came from, finding that it was “of natural environmental origin,” Suha Arafat said.

The French finding “dismisses the hypothesis of poisoning by polonium-210,” she said. The Swiss scientists said they found elevated traces of polonium-210 and lead, and that the timeframe of Arafat’s illness and death was consistent with poisoning from ingesting polonium.

Arafat’s widow and her legal team attributed the difference to the potential role of radioactive radon gas around the burial cloth and body in the tomb. Its presence was detected and measured by both the French and the Swiss. Radon, which is found naturally, transforms into polonium in a naturally occurring process.

Arafat and her lawyers reached the conclusion after consulting private experts to help them understand the French report.

“There is a doubt,” Arafat said. “Is it the poisoned body that contaminated the immediate external environment — the Swiss thesis — or the opposite, is it the external environment, the radioactive radon gas, that explains the presence of polonium-210 in the body — the French thesis?”

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