Palestinians head to Paris to probe Arafat's death


Palestinian leaders plan to send a delegation to Paris to seek details on what caused the death of President Yasser Arafat last week at a French hospital, officials said today.

The conditions surrounding the death of President Yasser Arafat raises questions
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie

The decision, which followed France's refusal to release Mr Arafat's medical dossier to the Palestinian Authority, came as the French government insisted Mr Arafat had not been poisoned.

But uncertainty surrounded the cause of Mr Arafat's death because French law prevents doctors releasing details without permission from his wife Souha, who has maintained a veil of secrecy.

"The conditions surrounding the death of President Yasser Arafat raises questions," Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie's office said in a statement.

Palestinian leaders have dismissed speculation among ordinary Palestinians that Mr Arafat was poisoned by Israel, which has also denied any involvement. No evidence has been provided to back the allegation of poisoning.

France's Le Mondenewspaper quoted doctors today as saying Mr Arafat, 75, a longtime symbol of Palestinian nationalism, suffered from an unusual blood disease and a liver problem.

Mr Rawhi Fattouh, Mr Arafat's interim successor as president, told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah: "A delegation will go to France to obtain clarifications on the medical report on what caused the death of our martyr leader Yasser Arafat."

Officials said the group was to be headed by Health Minister Mr Jawad al-Tibi and will include Justice Ministry officials, doctors and Muslim clerics. But there was no immediate word on when the delegation would leave.