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Exhumation of Yasser Arafat’s Remains Begin

AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The exhumation of a body is usually not a multi-week process, but workers who began to exhume the body of the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday are expected to take two weeks to complete the task.

A source close to Arafat’s family tells AFP the work is expected to last 15 days.  The exhumation began Tuesday with the removal of concrete and stones from Arafat’s mausoleum in Ramallah on the West Bank.

French, Swiss and Russian experts are involved in the exhumation, which was approved by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after French authorities opened an investigation into Arafat’s 2004 death, following a claim that he may have been killed by a rare radioactive poison.

This past summer, a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of the radioactive element polonium-210 on Arafat’s clothing that had been supplied by the late leader’s widow.

The most famous example of someone dying from that toxic substance was former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium-210 after obtaining political asylum in London in 2006.

Arafat fell into a coma at his Ramallah compound and was transported to France for treatment that failed to revive him.  His official cause of death was listed as a stroke resulting from a blood disorder.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio