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'Moderate' Reason to Conclude Arafat Was Killed by Polonium: Swiss Experts

Former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had exceptionally high levels of a radioactive substance in his body at the time of his death, though that fact does not conclusively prove he was assassinated, Swiss researchers said at a Thursday press conference.

The manner of Arafat's 2004 death at a French military hospital following a severe stroke has caused Palestinians for years to speculate he was murdered by one of his many political enemies, including possibly Israel. The Palestinian Liberation Front leader's remains were unearthed last year so genetic samples could be removed and transferred for laboratory testing in Europe.

Laboratory analysis by Swiss scientists from the Vaudois University Hospital Centre revealed levels of polonium 18 times above normal, BBC News reported.

Such high levels "by definition … indicates third party involvement," Professor Francois Bochud told journalists. "Our results offer moderate backing for the theory of poisoning."

The scientists said they could not conclusively say whether Arafat was poisoned due to "chain of custody" issues with some of the biological samples, not enough specimens to examine and the amount of time that had passed since death.

Bochud said, "we cannot show categorically that hypothesis that the poisoning caused was this or that."

The French government last summer opened up a murder investigation into Arafat's death. Russian and French scientists are still conducting their own testing of the Palestinian leader's remains.

Arafat's widow told the BBC she knew her husband had been murdered.

"I can't accuse anybody," Suha Arafat said. "Everybody wants to accuse Israel … I can't jump into conclusion."

The Palestine Liberation Organization on Thursday demanded an international investigation be opened into Arafat's death, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The results proved Arafat was poisoned by polonium, and this substance is owned by states, not people, meaning that the crime was committed by a state," PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef said.

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