But the records were inconclusive about what brought about the DIC, which has numerous possible causes, including infections and liver disease. Outside experts who reviewed the available records on behalf of The Associated Press were also unable to pinpoint the underlying cause.
The Arafat-linked belongings tested by the Swiss institute were provided by his widow, who is estranged from most of the Palestinian leadership and has lived outside the Palestinian territories since before her husband’s death. Mrs. Arafat has not explained why she waited this long to have the tests done, but was cooperating with Al-Jazeera, which first broadcast the findings on Tuesday.
The Swiss institute detected elevated traces of the radioactive substance polonium-210 — extremely lethal in small doses — on Arafat’s belongings, including a toothbrush, a fur hat and underwear. Polonium’s most famous victim is KGB agent-turned-Kremlin-critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after losing all his hair and turning blue — symptoms not displayed by Arafat.
Derek Hill, a radiological science expert at University College London, has said despite the natural decay of the substance after eight years, an autopsy should be able to tell “with a pretty high confidence” whether Arafat had polonium in his body when he died.
Exhuming remains, particularly of a revered leader like Arafat, could potentially offend the sensibilities of ordinary Palestinians, though the top Muslim cleric in the Palestinian territories has said religion would not stand in the way of an autopsy.
At the same time, the circle of those seeking a thorough investigation widened, with Tunisia asking the Arab League to hold a ministerial meeting to discuss the circumstances of Arafat’s death.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO official, said Abbas assured her he would cooperate with any investigation.
“We want to know. We want closure,” she said. “This was not an ordinary man.”
Joining the chorus Thursday was Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Gaza Strip government run by Arafat’s rival, the Islamic militant Hamas.
“We support the extraction of the body of the late President Arafat for re-examination in order to discover the elements who facilitated the assassination,” he told an audience in Gaza.
• Associated Press writers Ian Deitch in Jerusalem and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed reporting.
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