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Arafat's nephew blames Israel in Palestinian's death

The Plain Dealer | Nov 23 2004

Freshly armed with Yasser Arafat's medical dossier, his nephew pinned blame on Israel for the late Palestinian leader's death and refused Monday to squelch rumors of poisoning -- though he acknowledged that doctors found no known poisons.

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

His accusation, at a Paris news conference two hours after French authorities gave him the files despite objections from 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 Al- Kidwa asserted.

He said he had no doubts that Arafat's still-un disclosed illness was "connected to the condi tions that the late president was living and suffering from."

The nephew acknowledged that he had not had time to 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 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 75.

Al-Kidwa said toxicology tests were conducted during Arafat's two-week stay in France but "no poisons known to doctors were found." He did not, however, categorically rule out poisoning -- which again could fuel theories in the Middle East that Arafat was murdered.

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

French officials say judicial authorities in Paris would have acted had they suspected wrongdoing -- as far as officials can go, without violating medical privacy laws, toward saying that poisoning was not a cause.

Before his death, French doctors had said 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 that 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. Arafat had been in poor health for years before he was flown to France Oct. 29 for treatment after his condition deteriorated.


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