Russia to help exhume Arafat's remains
Russian experts will be part of an international group tasked with
exhuming the body of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat,
alleged to have been poisoned by polonium, Palestinian President
Ramallah: Work has
begun to open the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
ahead of an exhumation of his body for a murder probe, a source
close to his family said Tuesday.
"Today they started removing concrete and stones from Arafat's
mausoleum and the work will last for almost 15 days," the source
told AFP news agency.
Arafat's tomb was screened from
public view in preparation for the forensic examination of his
body. The entrance to the presidential headquarters in the West
Bank city of Ramallah was surrounded on Monday by blue tarpaulins.
"...Arafat's mausoleum was closed as a preliminary step in the
investigation of his death," Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the
Palestinian investigative committee on Arafat's death, said.
Arafat died in a French military hospital near Paris on November
11, 2004 and with French experts unable to say what had killed
him, many Palestinians are convinced he was poisoned by Israel.
French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry in August after Al
Jazeera broadcast an investigation in which Swiss experts said
they had found high levels of radioactive polonium on Arafat's
A French team is due in Ramallah on November 26
to begin work on exhuming the body, Palestinian sources said last
month, adding that Swiss experts would arrive at the same time for
an operation that could take "several weeks or a month".
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that Russia
would also be helping the investigation although he did not
specify in what role.
"We are currently in contact with French investigators, experts in
Switzerland and the Russian government to open the tomb of Yasser
Arafat," Abbas said in a speech in Ramallah to mark the eighth
anniversary of his predecessor's death.
Polonium is a highly toxic
substance rarely found outside military and scientific circles. It
was used to kill former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic
Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 in London shortly after
drinking tea laced with the poison.