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Medical files show Arafat was healthy

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Medical files released for the first time Thursday portray Yasser Arafat as a robust 75-year-old whose sudden health crisis, a month before his mysterious 2004 death, was initially blamed on viral gastroenteritis.

The treatment notes by Arafat’s Arab doctors are part of a renewed push to find out what killed the Palestinian leader.

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For years, little was heard about official Palestinian efforts to uncover Arafat’s cause of death. An investigation by the Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera, in collaboration with Arafat’s widow, Suha, has pressured Arafat’s successor, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to determine what happened.

Last week, Switzerland’s Institute of Radiation Physics said clothing and personal items used by Arafat in his final days showed elevated traces of the radioactive agent polonium-210. The items were provided by Mrs. Arafat and sent to the lab by Al-Jazeera.

The findings, though inconclusive, revived Palestinian claims that Arafat was poisoned.

Some Palestinian officials have charged that Israel poisoned Arafat. Israel has repeatedly denied the charges over the years, saying it would not have been in Israel’s interest to kill him, though it blamed him for Palestinian violence.

Mrs. Arafat, who refused to consent to an autopsy immediately after her husband’s death, has lived abroad for years and is estranged from most of the Palestinian leadership.

Abbas and his aides have sent conflicting messages about their intentions.

Earlier this week, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Abbas made a final decision to allow an autopsy.

On Thursday, members of a committee investigating Arafat’s death were less forceful. Justice Minister Ali Mohanna said Arafat’s nephew, Nasser al-Kidwa, asked for the full report from the Swiss lab, and a decision on further testing would be made only after reviewing the report.

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