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Yasser Arafat 'Poison' Scandal: Mahmoud Abbas 'Gives Permission To Exhume Body'

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Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly given his permission for late leader Yasser Arafat to be exhumed over claims he was poisoned by radiation.

A senior aide has said that Abbas gave the go-ahead "in principle" for his predecessor to autopsied, news agency AP reported, following allegations that Arafat was poisoned with radioactive element polonium -210.

The calls for his body to be an exhumed follow a programme broadcast by Al Jazeera in which Swiss scientists claimed to have found more than 20 times the lethal amount of polonium on Arafat's clothes.

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A programme broadcast by Al Jazeera alleged that Yasser Arafat had been poisoned by polonium -210

Abbas's approval of the exhumation is supported by a number of senior Palestian figures who expressed the need for conclusive findings following the revelations. Senior official Saeb Erakat has called for an internal investigation and the Palestinian administration said it would not be obstructing requests by his widow to exhume Arafat's body, which currently lies in a limestone tomb in Ramallah, on the West Bank.

On Monday Respect MP George Galloway added his voice to the debate, in a blog for Scottish newspaper The Daily Record entitled: "Exhume Arafat and expose poisoners who killed him".

Evidence for the allegations centre around urine stains found in Arafat's underpants, analysed by scientists at the Institute de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland. Arafat's widow had provided the laboratory with a number of the late leaders belongings to be tested, and scientists claim to have found more than 20 times the levels of polonium needed to kill a human being on Arafat's clothes.

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Arafat with his wife Suha in October 2004, prior to their departure to Paris.

"We have to exhume Yasser Arafat's body to reveal the truth to all the Muslim and Arab world," Suha Arafat told Al Jazeera, following the test results

The 75-year-old Palestinian leader suffered extreme diahorrea, vomiting and weight-loss before his death in 2004 in Paris, reports Al Jazeera. He had been well until his health suffered an extreme deterioration, according to AFP.

French officials never disclosed the reason for Arafat's death in 2004, citing privacy reasons.

The same symptoms were suffered by the former Russian KGB spy Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium -210 in 2006.

Polonium -210 is an extremely powerful radioactive substance, used to power spacecraft.

Marie Curie who discovered the element at the turn of the 20th century died from leukaemia after prolonged exposure to radioactive material.

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Alexander Litvinenko in his hospital bed after being poisoned with polonium -210

Francois Bochud, head of the Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne, said:

"If (Suha Arafat) really wants to know what happened to her husband, an exhumation should provide us with a sample that should have a very high quantity of polonium if he was poisoned,"