updated 8/14/2007 11:16:13 AM ET 2007-08-14T15:16:13

Tunisia has stripped the widow of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of Tunisian citizenship, officials said Tuesday.

A formal decree published Aug. 2 in Tunisia’s official register indicated that 44-year-old Suha Arafat, who was born in Jerusalem and became a naturalized Tunisian last year, had lost her citizenship.

No explanation was provided. The decree made no reference to the Arafats’ 12-year-old daughter Zahwa, who became a Tunisian citizen on the same day as her mother.

Suha Arafat was believed to have left Tunisia, and news reports suggested she was in Malta. She had lived in Tunisia since Yasser Arafat died at a suburban Paris hospital in November 2004.

No comment
In an interview published Tuesday in London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, Suha Arafat refused to comment. The daily said she was reached from Valletta, Malta, where her brother Gaby al-Taweel is serving as Palestinian ambassador.

Contacted by The Associated Press, Tunisian authorities declined immediate comment, as did the Palestinian envoy to Tunis — Salmane al-Herfi.

Born to a wealthy Christian family, Suha Arafat once served as secretary to the famed Palestinian leader, and they secretly married in 1990. She was a top heir to Arafat’s vast fortunes, and owns a home in the upscale Gammarth neighborhood in northern Tunis.

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