Palestinians divided over exhuming Arafat's body
RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Digging up Yasser Arafat's bones may offer the best shot at learning if the Palestinian leader was poisoned, as many of his old comrades-in-arms claim, but Palestinian officials signaled yesterday they're not rushing into an autopsy.
Arafat's 2004 death remains shrouded in mystery, and this week's findings by Switzerland's Institute of Radiation Physics that belongings linked to Arafat contained an elevated level of a radioactive have revived speculation about foul play.
However, the institute said more tests are needed, prompting Arafat's wife, Suha, to demand that her husband's remains, buried under a glass-and-stone mausoleum in his former West Bank compound, be exhumed.
Arafat's successor, President Mahmoud Abbas, has agreed to an autopsy in principle, but it seems a final decision will take time.
Another possible hurdle is consent by Arafat's close relatives, particularly his nephew Nasser al-Kidwa, a former Palestinian envoy to the United Nations and -- as head of the Yasser Arafat Foundation -- the custodian of his uncle's memory.
Earlier this week, al-Kidwa seemed cool to the idea of an autopsy, telling the Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera that he believes the findings by the Swiss institute are sufficient proof of his long-standing claim that Arafat was poisoned.
Al-Kidwa has not been reachable for comment since then. Abbas has said he'll only order an autopsy if the family is on board, but did not define whom he meant.
A full-blown investigation could lead to uncomfortable questions for the Palestinian leadership. Fingers have been pointed at Israel, but if an autopsy were to reveal that Arafat was indeed poisoned, the probe would also have to look at Palestinians who had access to him.