PARIS/RAMALLAH - Agence France-Presse
2004 file photo shows Yasser Arafat. AFP Photo
France has named a panel of judges to launch a probe abroad into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over suspicions he was poisoned with radioactive substance polonium, a source said Tuesday.
The judges will visit Arafat's mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Arafat died aged 75 in France in November 2004 and French
doctors were unable to say what had killed him. Many Palestinians are convinced he was poisoned by Israel.Palestinians begin work to open Arafat grave: source
The Palestinians today began work to open the grave of the late Yasser Arafat ahead of an exhumation of his body for a murder probe, a source close to his family told AFP.
"Today they started removing concrete and stones from Arafat's mausoleum and the work will last for almost 15 days," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"There are several phases," he said, referring to the operation to open the tomb ahead of a visit by French, Swiss and Russian
experts to forensically test Arafat's remains over suspicions he was poisoned with the radioactive substance polonium.
"It starts with the removal of stone and concrete and cutting the iron (framework) until they reach the soil that covers the body, which will not be removed until the arrival of the French
prosecutors, Swiss experts and Russian
investigators," the source said.
On Monday, Arafat's mausoleum, which is located at the Muqataa presidential headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah was screened from public view with blue tarpaulins ahead of the operation to open the grave.
Work to actually begin taking samples is expected to begin at the end of the month after the French
and Swiss delegations arrive on November 26, officials have said.
"Because of Arafat's position and his status, no-one will be allowed, under any circumstances, to photograph his body while the samples are taken," the source told AFP.
Arafat died in a 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 television broadcast an investigation in which Swiss experts said they had found high levels of radioactive polonium on Arafat's personal effects.
At the weekend, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Russia
would also be helping the investigation, although he did not specify in what role.
Polonium is a highly toxic substance rarely found outside military and scientific circles.