TUNIS - Tunisia Ennahda-led government on Thursday called for an urgent meeting of the Arab League and an international probe into the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over suggestions that he might have been poisoned.
"We call for an urgent meeting of Arab League foreign ministers and the creation of an international committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death" of Arafat, Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem told private radio station Mosaique FM.
"We owe a debt to that great man, who had such an influence on the Palestinian national cause," Abdessalem said after a meeting with President Moncef Marzouki.
Tunisia hosted the Palestine Liberation Organisation, of which Arafat was the head, between 1980 and 1990 after they were expelled from Lebanon.
On Tuesday, Al-Jazeera television broadcast the results of a nine-month probe it commissioned into the 2004 death of the iconic Palestinian leader that indicated he could have been poisoned with the radioactive substance polonium.
The next day Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas endorsed exhuming Arafat's body from its mausoleum at the Palestinian presidency headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah for a forensic examination.
The supreme Palestinian Islamic authority, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein, said there was no religious law forbidding Arafat's exhumation.
"If it is necessary to examine a body for the needs of an inquiry and that requires its full or partial retrieval there is nothing to prevent that," he said on Thursday.
The Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne tested items belonging to Arafat at Al-Jazeera's request, including clothing which was handed to his widow Suha by the Paris military hospital where he died in November 2004 at the age of 75.
Suha Arafat gave Al-Jazeera permission to take the items, which contained strands of Arafat's hair and traces of sweat, urine and blood, for testing at several European laboratories, including the Switzerland institute, which reported finding high levels of polonium.
Polonium, which is highly toxic, was used to kill Russian former spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with the substance at a London restaurant.
Suha Arafat rejected an autopsy after her husband's death but has since changed her position and on Wednesday said that she was "immediately to send a formal letter to the Swiss laboratory that conducted the tests, to authorise collection of samples of the remains of the martyr Arafat to verify the results."
The nephew of the deceased, Nasser al-Qidwa, another family representative whose consent is required, has not yet formally expressed his wishes.