- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Yasser Arafat’s nephew turned his late uncle’s medical records over to the Palestinian Authority yesterday and repeated charges that the Palestinian leader may have died an “unnatural” death.

The statement was sure to renew speculation among Palestinians and in the rest of the Arab world, where many already believe the late leader was poisoned despite Israel’s repeated denials and the lack of any medical evidence to support the claim.

Nasser al-Kidwa, who is also Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, made the comments after he handed over the 558-page medical dossier to Palestinian officials in Ramallah. No diagnosis or reason has been given for Mr. Arafat’s death on Nov. 11 at a French hospital.

After handing the medical dossier to interim Palestinian Authority President Rauhi Fattouh, Mr. al-Kidwa said French doctors could not rule out poisoning, but had not found traces in Mr. Arafat’s body of “any poison known to them.”

“Examinations of X-rays and all imaginable tests … are still with the same results, the inability of reaching a clear diagnosis,” Mr. al-Kidwa said during a press conference.

“That is precisely the reason why suspicions are there, because without a reason you cannot escape the other possibility … that there is unnatural cause for the death,” he said.

French officials have said that judicial authorities would have opened an investigation had they suspected foul play.

Mr. Arafat, suffering from a mysterious illness, was urgently airlifted to the Percy Military Training Hospital in the southwestern Paris suburb of Clamart on Oct. 29. His condition rapidly deteriorated and he fell into a coma.

A month after Mr. Arafat’s death at the age of 75 speculation still swirls about what killed him, with rumors ranging from cirrhosis of the liver to AIDS to poisoning.

Mr. al-Kidwa was given Mr. Arafat’s dossier by French medical officials late last month, but no details have been released. At the time, Mr. al-Kidwa also said the possibility of poisoning could not be excluded, but he said no known poison had been found.

Meanwhile, Palestinians are focusing on the upcoming election. Tayeb Abdel-Rahim, secretary-general to the president, resigned yesterday to take on the post of campaign manager for PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas, a front-runner in the election.

Mr. Abdel-Rahim, a leading member of the ruling Fatah movement, said he resigned because he could not remain a Palestinian Authority official while running Mr. Abbas’ campaign as the Fatah candidate for president.

According to recent polls, Mr. Abbas is about tied with jailed Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah member who is running as an independent.

Palestinian officials visited Barghouti Friday in the Israeli prison where he is serving several life sentences for being involved in attacks on Israelis. Barghouti is under intense pressure from within the Fatah movement to withdraw his candidacy, and some officials said such a decision may be announced in the coming days.

In Israeli politics, officials of Israel’s dovish Labor Party voted to accept Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s invitation to join his ruling coalition.

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