Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has invited Swiss experts to take tissue samples from Yasser Arafat's body, a Palestinian official told Agence France Presse on Sunday.
The invitation comes amid speculation that Arafat was poisoned, after a Swiss lab said last week it had found elevated levels of a lethal radioactive isotope on Arafat’s belongings.
"President Abbas ordered one of his medical advisers to communicate immediately with the experts at the Swiss institute who tested Arafat's clothes and request they come immediately to Ramallah to take samples from Arafat's body," Saeb Erakat told AFP late Sunday evening. Arafat, who died in 2004, is buried in a mausoleum beneath his former compound.
An Israeli counterterrorism expert on Thursday discarded the recent allegations that Arafat died by poisoning and claimed that traces of polonium-210 found on his personal belongings were planted long after Arafat's death.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Dr. Eli Karmon of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center's Institute for Counterterrorism said that recent allegations that Arafat was poisoned with highly radioactive polonium are not based on facts.
According to a recent report on the Qatari based news network Al-Jazeera, abnormally high levels of polonium were found on organic remains on the deceased Arab leader's personal belongings.
The polonium traces were analyzed by Swiss specialists after Arafat's widow, Suha, agreed to provide Al-Jazeera with a few personal items that had belonged to the former Palestinian president.
However, Karmon said that it was impossible that after eight years there were still high levels of polonium, if Arafat had indeed been poisoned with the substance.
"If it had been used for poisoning, minimal levels should be seen now. Yet much higher levels were found. We suspect that someone planted the high level of polonium-210 recently into the clothes of Arafat," said Karmon in an exclusive interview with CCTV on Saturday.
Karmon also said that if it was true that Arafat's belonging had traces of polonium, the places where those items were kept would also retain traces of the radioactive substance.
"Did Al-Jazeera check the home of Suha Arafat in Paris and Malta where she kept the items for traces of polonium?" Karmon said. Al-Jazeera's report did not mention those analyses.
"If Suha Arafat safeguarded these contaminated materials, why, after seven years, was she not poisoned too? She touched these things and Arafat in the hospital," he said. “The Palestinian side has also made investigations since Arafat died in 2004, finding that people around Arafat, including those who dined with him, have no signs of poisoning."
Since the TV network released the report, the mystery and speculation over Arafat's death have revived once again. At the time of his death, the Palestinian Authority pointed a finger at Israel as the culprit.