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Poison found on Arafat's clothes

The body of former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat may be exhumed after the discovery of traces of a radioactive agent on clothing he reportedly wore in his final days reignited a cauldron of conspiracy theories.

Mr Arafat's widow, who ordered the Swiss laboratory tests, called for her husband's body to be examined and his successor gave tentative approval for a post-mortem test. But experts warned that even after the detection of polonium-210, getting answers on the cause of death would be tough.

Mr Arafat was 75 when he died, on November 11 2004, in a French military hospital. He had been airlifted there weeks earlier with a mysterious illness, after being confined by Israel for three years to his West Bank headquarters.

At the time, French doctors said Mr Arafat died of a massive stroke. According to French medical records, he had suffered inflammation, jaundice and a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC.

But the records were inconclusive about what brought about the DIC, which has numerous causes including infections, colitis and liver disease. Outside experts who reviewed the records for The Associated Press were also unable to pinpoint the underlying cause.

The uncertainty sparked speculation about the cause of death, including the possibility of Aids or poisoning. Many in the Arab world believe he was killed by Israel, which held him responsible for the bloody Palestinian uprising of the early 2000s.

Israeli officials have repeatedly denied foul play and dismissed the latest theories as nonsense.

But that debate was reignited after a Swiss lab said it had discovered traces of polonium-210 in clothing and other belongings provided by Mr Arafat's wife Suha. She told the lab that Mr Arafat had used the items in his final days.

"I was shocked first, of course, because it's a very dangerous poison that ... they discovered," Mrs Arafat told APTN. "But I was relieved that we are on the steps of knowing the truth." "Not the whole world has access to nuclear elements. We have to make a more profound and deep investigation to know all the truth about his death," she added.

Polonium-210 is best known for causing the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a one-time KGB agent turned critic of the Russian government, in London in 2006. Mr Litvinenko drank tea laced with the substance.

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