Swiss lab wants guarantee in Arafat death inquiry
By Noah Browning
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - A Swiss laboratory will help investigate the unexplained 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat only if it receives guarantees its findings will not be used for political purposes, a spokesman for the lab said on Wednesday.
A committee looking into the Palestinian president's death has asked the Swiss Radiophysics Institute, which found traces of a deadly polonium isotope on Arafat's clothing provided by his widow for a recent Al Jazeera television documentary, to examine his remains.
"We have been invited by the Palestinian National Authority and we are currently studying the most appropriate way of responding to this request," Darcy Christen, spokesman for the institute, said in an emailed reply to a Reuters question.
"Meanwhile, our main concern is to guarantee the independence, the credibility and the transparency of any involvement that we may have," Christen said.
Arafat was a guerilla-turned-statesman who came to symbolize the Palestinian quest for statehood throughout decades of war and peace with Israel.
After being stricken with an ailment which remains unknown, the president was airlifted to France in 2004 when he fell ill during an extended siege Israel mounted on his compound during a Palestinian uprising. He died shortly thereafter.
His death aroused rumors among Palestinians of an assassination, which many blamed on Israel. An investigation into the case could rekindle Palestinian hostility toward Israel and widespread suspicions that a local collaborator may have poisoned him under directions from the Jewish state.
Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the committee looking into the death, told reporters the Swiss institute was seeking assurances before sending experts to the Palestinians' administrative capital in Ramallah, but did not disclose the nature of those guarantees. Continued...