Polonium traces 20 times the dose needed to kill a human are found on Palestinian leader's underwear
Traces of element also found on leader's headscarf and toothbrush
Arafat died in Paris hospital in 2004 from mystery illness
Widow says his body should now be exhumed to investigate test results
Same radioactive substance also killed Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in 2006
By CHRIS PARSONS
Conspiracy: Yasser Arafat died in a Paris hospital from a mystery illness in 2004
The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have been assassinated with a lethal dose of the radioactive substance polonium, scientists have claimed.
Arafat died in 2004 from a mystery illness, amid theories that he was killed at the hands of Israeli spy agency Mossad.
But a new investigation has concluded that a urine stain on Arafat's underwear had traces of Polonium-210, the highly radioactive substance which killed Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko six years ago.
The 75-year-old's widow, Suha Arafat, has called for her late husband's body to be exhumed after the Al Jazeera investigation found the traces on clothes he wore in his final days.
Previous theories had speculated that Arafat, who died in a Paris hospital in November 2004, had contracted cancer, cirrhosis, or even HIV.
But tests carried out by the Institute de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, showed that Arafat's underwear registered a level of 180 millibecquerels of Polonium-210, more than 20 times the dose to kill an average human being.
Dr Francois Bochod, the director of the institute, confirmed to Al Jazeera that there had been an 'unexplained, elevated amount' of polonium found on the former leader.
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The Al Jazeera documentary revealed that Polonium was found on Arafat's underwear, kaffiyeh headscarf, and even his toothbrush.
Al Jazeera had sent Arafat's clothes to the institute to test them, after obtaining them from his widow as part of a nine-month investigation into his death.
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Investigation: Arafat's widow Suha Arafat, pictured here alongside then Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nabil Shaath (left) and then French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin, says her husband's body should be exhumed following the lab results
Many have speculated that Arafat, whose West Bank grave is pictured here, was killed by an Israeli spy agency
POLONIUM: THE SLOW KILLER
Those exposed to a lethal dose of Polonium, usually by ingesting it, die within 2-3 months.
In most cases there are no serious symptoms for a week after being exposed, but nausea and fatigue would set in soon after.
After ingestion, Polonium affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, bone marrow, and gastrointestinal tract.
Serious illness would not be expected for a month, due to the amount of time it takes to accumulate dangerous internal exposures.
As the severity of the exposure develops in the body, victims usually lose hair, and the lining of the gastrointestinal system is destroyed.
This later leads to severe diarrhea, intestinal bleeding, loss of fluids, and disturbance of electrolyte balance.
Though it takes 5-6 weeks to seriously affect most, the symptoms of Polonium poisoning contrast to the case of Litvinenko (above), who fell ill the day after he was exposed.
The Russian died 23 days after being exposed, an indication that he was poisoned with many times the required lethal dosage.
Bochud said the only way to confirm the findings would be to exhume Arafat's body to test it for polonium-210.
'But we have to do it quite fast because polonium is decaying, so if we wait too long, for sure, any possible proof will disappear,' he told Al Jazeera.
It emerged today that Palestinians are ready to accept a medical examination of Arafat's body if his family agrees, according to a Palestinian official.
The comments from Tawfiq Tirawi, who led a Palestinian probe into Arafat's death, came just hours after the Al-Jazeera investigation showed the Palestinian leader might have been poisoned with the radioactive substance polonium.
The official told AP: 'After the Al-Jazeera broadcast I met today with president (Mahmud) Abbas and recommended accepting an analysis of the body of the martyr president Arafat, and Abbas for his part agreed on the condition that the family... accepts.'
Polonium was found to have caused the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, and he was assumed to have been deliberately poisoned.
Arafat's widow Suha said she would ask for Arafat's body - buried in the West Bank town of Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian self-rule authority - to be exhumed.
Speaking at the end of the documentary, aired on Al Jazeera's English and Arabic channels, she said: 'We have to go further and exhume Yasser Arafat's body to reveal the truth to all the Muslim and Arab world.'
Arafat led the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's fight against Israel from the 1960s but signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state in 1993 establishing Palestinian self-rule areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
His mysterious death came four years into a Palestinian uprising, after years of talks with Israel failed to lead to a Palestinian state.
French doctors who treated Arafat in his final days could not establish the cause of death.
French officials refused to give details of his condition, citing privacy laws, fuelling a host of rumours and theories over the nature of his illness.
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