French and Swiss investigators are expected to exhume the remains of Yasser Arafat to ascertain the cause of his death after suspicions arose that the iconic Palestinian leader might have been poisoned.

The French team will arrive anytime between November 24 and 26, AP reported. However, Switzerland’s Institute of Radiation Physics, expected to carry out a parallel autopsy, did not confirm the dates.

A fresh investigation into Arafat’s death — in November 2004 — was triggered by the findings of a Swiss laboratory, which examined clothes that supposedly belonged to Arafat. Investigators discovered traces of polonium-210, a deadly radioactive poison on the clothing — generating strong suspicions that Arafat, who had died in a French military hospital, might have been poisoned.

Armed with the report, Arafat’s wife Suha Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) called for parallel probes — Ms. Arafat formally seeking a French investigation, while the PA apparently deciding to reach out to the Swiss investigators.

Both teams will draw samples at the same time from the remains of Arafat, who was buried in Ramallah. A grand mausoleum has been subsequently constructed to enclose the grave-site.

The investigation into Arafat’s death comes at a time when the PA is set for a major diplomatic confrontation with Israel and the United States. Strong opposition from Tel Aviv and Washington notwithstanding, the Palestinians are likely to move the General Assembly for a vote likely to establish Palestine as an “observer state” of the United Nations.

The Palestinians, supported by a majority of the developing countries, are expected to sail though the voting. “Observer state” status would empower the Palestinians with international legitimacy, which they can leverage during future negotiations with the Israelis for a genuine two-state solution.

Heavy price

However, the Palestinians could pay a heavy price for their audacious move. Saeb Erakat, veteran Palestinian negotiator, warned on Tuesday that the U.S could “freeze all or some of the funding for the Palestinian National Authority ... put pressure on other governments to discourage them from providing support and/or reduce their aid to Palestine”, after the U.N. vote, scheduled either on November 15 or November 29.

The Americans have already punished the U.N. cultural body United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) after it admitted Palestine as a member last year. Mr. Erekat also apprehended that the Israel could refuse to channel the monthly $100 million that it collects as customs payments on behalf of the PA.

More In: International | News