Hasan Suroor

Tests positive for radio-active substance, Polonium-210

LONDON: An Italian academic, whom the former KGB spy Alexander Litvenenko met hours before he fell ill on November 1, has tested positive for Polonium-210, the radio-active substance suspected to have caused the poisoning which killed Mr. Litvenenko.

Mario Scaramella, who was known to Mr. Litvenenko, met him at a sushi bar in Central London in connection during their joint campaign against the Russian Government.

The Health Protection Agency, monitoring cases of suspected radiation following Mr. Litvenenko's death, confirmed on Friday that Mr. Scaramella had tested positive and the amount of Polonium-210 found in his body was ``likely to be of concern for his immediate health.''

In a statement, it said: ``The agency can confirm it was informed this [Saturday] morning that tests have established that a further person who was in direct and very close contact with Mr. Litvinenko has a significant quantity of the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 in his body. This person is now to be investigated further in hospital."

Mr. Scaramella has maintained that he did not eat anything when he met Mr. Litvinenko, and the BBC quoted an acquaintance of his as saying: ``The last time I spoke to him, on Sunday I think, his worry about his own contamination had been allayed he thought he was ok."

Mr. Scaramella was among the several people, known for their anti-Kremlin campaign, whom Mr. Litvenenko met the day he fell seriously ill.

Since Mr. Litvenenko's death more than a week ago, traces of Polonium-210 have been found at 12 locations in London, and on at least five planes, including three belonging to British Airways.