- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

PARIS — Armed with Yasser Arafat’s weighty medical dossier, his nephew blamed Israel for the Palestinian leader’s death and refused yesterday to squelch rumors of poisoning — even though he acknowledged that doctors found no known poison.

Nasser al-Kidwa, who is also the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, said the files are inconclusive on the cause of Mr. Arafat’s death, but, “I believe the Israeli authorities are largely responsible for what happened.”

His accusation, at a Paris press conference two hours after French authorities gave him the files despite objections from Mr. Arafat’s widow, could inflame suspicions among Palestinians that Israel was somehow to blame — if only by confining Arafat to his West Bank headquarters for the last three years of his life, as Mr. al-Kidwa asserted.

He said he had no doubts that Arafat’s still undisclosed illness was “connected to the conditions that the late president was living and suffering from. … This is a principal part of the issue.”

The nephew acknowledged that he had not yet read the 558-page file, plus X-rays, that he said would be provided to Palestinian leaders. They have promised to disclose the cause of Mr. Arafat’s death and have formed an inquiry committee that includes doctors who treated him before he was flown to a Paris-area military hospital, where he died Nov. 11 at age 75.

Mr. al-Kidwa said toxicology tests were conducted during Mr. Arafat’s two-week stay in France but “no poisons known to doctors were found.” He did not, however, categorically rule out poisoning.

“This possibility could not be excluded,” he said. “We are not excluding that but we are not asserting that, because asserting that requires proof and we do not have the proof that suggests there was poison.”

He promised that the Palestinian Authority would study the file to try to determine a cause of death, but also cautioned patience.

“For the French authorities, medically, the file was considered closed. For us, and because of the lack of a clear diagnosis, a question mark remains. And personally, I believe that it will remain there for some time to come,” Mr. al-Kidwa said.

French doctors had disclosed before his death that Mr. Arafat had a high white blood cell count as well as a low count of platelets, a substance that aids in blood clotting. The doctors also said leukemia had been ruled out and that he was in a coma. Palestinian officials said he had a brain hemorrhage shortly before he died.

That is consistent with a variety of illnesses from pneumonia to cancer. Mr. Arafat had been in poor health for years before France flew him here Oct. 29 for treatment after his condition deteriorated.

Farouk Kaddoumi, the new head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mainstream Fatah faction, repeated his belief that Mr. Arafat was poisoned. Speaking in Beirut, Mr. Kaddoumi said all symptoms, treatments and medical tests had eliminated all possible ailments from which he might have died .

“Why, then, the low platelets count? There is no reason except poisoning,” he said.

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