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PA officials accused of obstructing inquest into Arafat's death

The Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) has accused Palestinian Authority officials of obstructing an inquest into the death of the late President Yasser Arafat. Hassan Khreisheh said that Palestinian and Arabic officials refused to disclose important information about Arafat's death in 2004.

Dr Khreisheh, who formed a committee to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death, said that his team headed by Abdul-Jawwad Saleh had worked for two months before it was suspended because no one from the PA or Arab officials, and even Arafat's close relatives and doctors, would agree to give any information. He believes that some PA leaders were involved in Arafat's death which is why they prevented his physician, Dr. Ashraf al-Kord, from giving information to the committee. They also, he claims, prevented two Egyptian and Tunisian medical staff from giving their testimony. "It is an attempt to protect figures who were close to the former leader and who were involved in his assassination," said Khreisheh. "All the evidence suggests that there was a Palestinian, Arabic and regional deal to block the investigations into Arafat's death," he added.

In 2005, the then PLC Speaker, Ahmed Quria, decided to form a ministerial committee headed by the Minister of Health, Jawad al-Teebi, to investigate the death, insisted Khreisheh. "That committee got copies of reports about Arafat's health during his stay in the military French hospital, but it was asked by certain people not to continue its work." According to Khreisheh, the PLC ignored its work in any case.

The deputy speaker said that the PA agreed to exhume Arafat's body because of the tremendous popular pressure exerted on its officials to reopen the portfolio which has been concealed for almost eight years. He noted that the sudden reopening of the file by Aljazeera television's investigation created confusion amongst the shadowy figures who took part in the killing of the president and blocked previous investigations.

Dr Khreisheh called on the Palestinian factions to form a higher national committee to oversee the autopsy on Arafat's remains to confirm the presence of Polonium in his body, and then pursue those responsible for poisoning him.

Aljazeera broadcast the details of an investigation based on scientific tests which revealed the presence of toxic radioactive Polonium in Arafat's personal belongings. The investigation faced broad criticism from PA and Fatah officials who closed this file long ago, even though they are seen by their supporters as having disrespected their former leader.

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