Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, may well have been poisoned with radioactive polonium, Swiss scientists have concluded in findings that may solve a 10-year riddle but torpedo the latest Middle East peace process.
His remains contained unusually high levels of polonium-210, a substance experts say can usually only be obtained from governments, months of forensic tests have shown.
The conclusions are likely to reawaken allegations that the late guerrilla leader – long a totemic symbol of the Palestinian national cause, was murdered, possibly by Israel which considered him a terrorist.
They also threaten to deal a fatal blow to ongoing peace talks that are already tottering under a barrage of mutual recriminations. A 108-page report from the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne said 18 times the normal levels of polonium were found in samples taken from his ribs and pelvis and in soil stained with his decaying organs.
Scientists said they could assert with 83 per cent confidence that Arafat was poisoned with polonium and said their findings “moderately supports” the argument that it caused his death.