News / Middle East

Swiss Confirm Polonium in Arafat's Remains

Swiss Confirm Polonium in Arafat's Remainsi
X
November 08, 2013 5:43 AM
Swiss forensic scientists have confirmed that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ingested lethal radioactive polonium before his death nine years ago - at such high levels that it could not have been an accident.
Swiss Confirm Polonium in Arafat's Remains
VOA News
Swiss forensic scientists have confirmed that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ingested lethal radioactive polonium before his death nine years ago - at such high levels that it could not have been an accident.

The Swiss lab examined Arafat's remains and his underclothes and a travel bag that he had with him in the days before his death in a Paris hospital. The scientists concluded the radioactive element was concentrated to a level that could not have occurred in nature.

Speaking to reporters Thursday in Lausanne, the Swiss experts said their test results neither confirmed nor denied that polonium was the specific cause of Arafat's death, but they added there was "moderate" backing for the idea that the 75-year-old Palestinian leader was poisoned by the highly radioactive substance.
 
Forensic experts from France and Russia also took samples from Arafat's corpse in 2012. Moscow has said its examination found no traces of polonium, while results from the French analysis have not yet been released.    

Palestinian officials have long alleged that Israel poisoned Arafat.  Israel has always denied that it played any role in Arafat's death, and repeated that statement Thursday.

The Israeli energy minister, Silvan Shalom, who was foreign minister and a member of Israel's "security cabinet" in 2004, said, "We never made a decision to harm him physically."

Shalom told Israel Radio: "In my opinion, this is a tempest in a tea cup. But even if it was [poisoning], it certainly was not Israel. Maybe someone else inside had thoughts or an interest to do it."

Arafat's widow, Suha, called on the Palestinian leadership to seek justice for her husband.

Speaking from Doha, Qatar, on Thursday, she told a reporter ((Associated Press)) that only countries with nuclear capabilities have access to polonium. She did not specifically mention Israel.

The findings from specialists at the University of Lausanne were released Wednesday in a 108-page report and posted online by the al-Jazeera television network, which commissioned the study, together with Suha Arafat.

The Swiss document appears to provide the first clear-cut sign that Arafat did not die of natural causes. But its authors framed their analysis cautiously, saying the results "moderately support the proposition" that polonium-210 - a colorless, odorless and nearly impossible to detect isotope - killed him.

The Swiss analysis took into account the time lapse since Arafat's death and the nature and quality of the specimens examined.

Arafat fell ill in October 2004 and was airlifted to France days later, after he failed to respond to treatment from a team of medical specialists from the Middle East. In early November, he lapsed into a gradually deepening coma, and died November 11.

In a separate and still controversial case that arose two years later, British investigators directly linked polonium-210 to the poisoning death of one-time Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who had defected to London.  From his death bed, Litvinenko said he believed Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin was to blame for his imminent death.

Russia later denied British requests to hand over a key suspect in the investigation of Litvinenko's murder. The case remains open.

You May Like

Asian Stocks Plunge on Weak Factory Activity

Official survey finds China’s manufacturing sector contracted at its fastest pace in three years More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs