updated 11/12/2004 4:50:27 PM ET 2004-11-12T21:50:27

Yasser Arafat’s Jordanian physician on Friday urged an autopsy be performed on the Palestinian leader because of the mystery surrounding his illness and death.

Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi’s comments underscored frustration in many corners of the Arab world over the intense secrecy surrounding Arafat’s condition.

Some have speculated Arafat was poisoned, but Israeli and Palestinian officials have sharply denied that theory.

“These stories are simply ridiculous,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev told The Associated Press on Friday. “We never denied Arafat access to medical help. We never prevented doctors from visiting him. We never prevented him from going to a hospital.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath has said after talks with Arafat’s French doctors that they had “ruled out completely poison.”

Gen. Christian Estripeau, spokesman at the French military hospital where Arafat was treated, refused to say whether an autopsy was performed or to comment on speculation that Arafat was poisoned. There was no comment from Palestinian officials.

Arafat died Thursday in Paris, where he was taken Oct. 29 for treatment after tests indicated he had a low count of blood platelets, components that help clotting.

Doctor pushes poison possibility
“One of the causes of platelet deficiency is poison,” said al-Kurdi, who examined the ailing Arafat in his Ramallah compound two weeks ago, before he was taken to Paris.

Although “not definitive, I believe the highest reason for Arafat’s mysterious death is poisoning,” al-Kurdi told The Associated Press.

“Therefore, there should be an autopsy performed,” added the leading Jordanian neurologist, who had frequently examined Arafat over the past two decades.

While poisoning can lead to a low platelet count, so can a variety of other maladies, from major bone marrow malfunction and cancer to infection.

Doctors say several ailments seem consistent with the little information that is known about Arafat’s condition. Among them is disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC — in which the body consumes platelets. In elderly people — Arafat was 75 — the underlying problem is usually a severe infection or cancer. Other possible conditions are chemical toxicity.

‘Trying to hide the truth’
Al-Kurdi said French and Arab doctors have “excluded the other reasons which caused Arafat’s platelet deficiency, like viral or bacterial infection, blood and other forms of cancer and lowered immunity.”

He called the burial hasty and expressed concern about the failure to perform an autopsy in compliance with Islamic rules, especially when suspicious death occurs. He said it all raised concerns of poisoning and questions of whether Israel or others could be involved.

“It looks as if somebody is trying to hide the truth,” he said.

But Regev said stories about poisoning started with the extremist Palestinian group Hamas and had no factual basis. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, on Thursday dismissed allegations that Israel killed Arafat as “scandalous and false.”

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