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Arafat's body tested for traces of poisons

THE body of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was exhumed today by a team of international experts trying to discover if he was poisoned.

French magistrates opened a murder inquiry in August into Arafat's death in Paris after a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of radioactive polonium on his clothing, which was supplied by his widow, Suha.

Arafat (below), who led the Palestinians' bid for a state through years of war and peacemaking, died in Paris aged 75 in 2004 after a short illness.

The French doctors who treated him said they were unable to determine the cause of death.

But allegations of foul play immediately surfaced, with many locals pointing the finger at Israel, which confined Arafat to his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah for the final two and a half years of his life.

Israel has denied any wrongdoing.

The official radio station Voice of Palestine reported that Arafat had been disinterred today after work began at dawn.

Experts from Switzerland, France, Russia and the Palestinian territories took part in the exhumation in Ramallah.

"Samples will be taken according to a very strict protocol and these samples will be analysed," said Darcy Christen, spokesman for the Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland.