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Yasser Arafat and agent Litvinenko shared same destiny: poisoned by polonium-210?

Photo showing an already poisoned Yasser Arafat.

Poisoned Alexander Litvinenko at University College Hospital in London.

Photo showing an already poisoned Yasser Arafat.

Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko was an officer who served in the Soviet KGB and its Russian successor, the Federal Security Service FSB. He fled with his family to London and was granted asylum in the United Kingdom. On 1 November 2006 Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalised in what was established as a case of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210 and that resulted in his death on 23 November. The events leading up to his poisoning and death are a matter of controversy, spawning numerous theories relating to his poisoning and death. The British investigation into his death resulted in a failed request to Russia for the extradition of the FSB agent Andrey Lugovoy whom they accused of Litvinenko’s murder, contributing to the further cooling of Russia-UK relations.

Apparently, the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had a similar dead. Shares a similar destiny like Litvinenko. Traces of the poisonous element polonium-210  have been found in the belongings of late Palestinian Leader Arafat, a Swiss institute said on Wednesday, and a television report said his widow had demanded his body be exhumed for further tests.

Arafat died at a hospital in France in 2004, after a sudden illness which baffled doctors. Many Palestinians have long suspected he was poisoned.

A spokesman for the Swiss Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne,  Mr. Darcy Christen, told media on Tuesday it had found “surprisingly” high levels of polonium-210 in Arafat’s belongings.

However, the Insitut can not yet declare whether the Palestinian leader was poisoned or not.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite channel said the institute had tested Arafat’s personal effects, given them by his widow.

Its documentary said they showed that his clothes, toothbrush and kaffiyeh headscarf contained abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element.

Poisoned Alexander Litvinenko at University College Hospital in London.

Francois Bochud, director of the institute, said to al Jazeera that the only way to confirm the findings would be to exhume Arafat’s body to test it for polonium-210.

“But we have to do it quite fast because polonium is decaying, so if we wait too long, for sure, any possible proof will disappear,” he told Al Jazeera.

Arafat’s widow Suha said she would ask for Arafat’s body – buried in the West Bank town of Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian self-rule authority – to be exhumed.

Arafat led the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s fight against Israel from the 1960s but signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state in 1993 establishing Palestinian self-rule areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. His mysterious death came four years into a Palestinian uprising, after years of talks with Israel failed to lead to a Palestinian state. French doctors who treated Arafat in his final days could not establish the cause of death. French officials refused to give details of his condition, citing privacy laws, fuelling a host of rumors and theories over the nature of his illness.

At the moment of his death, the relations between Arafat and Israel were very cold.

Arab and palestine journalists have repeatedly accused Israel under former prime minister Ariel Sharon of poisoning Arafat.