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Late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat's blood contained the deadly HIV virus, Arafat's personal physician told Jordanian media over the weekend. Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi stressed, however, that Arafat did not die of AIDS - which is caused by the virus.

Jordanian news site Amman quoted al-Kurdi - a former Jordanian health ministry official - as saying that the virus had been injected into Arafat's bloodstream close to his death, and that the real cause of the chairman's death was poison.

Hours earlier, al-Kurdi was interviewed on television news station Al-Jazeera. However, the network cut short the live interview with al-Kurdi as soon as he mentioned that the former chairman had contracted HIV.

To Amman, al-Kurdi said that Arafat's death was suspicious in several other respects. "I would usually be summoned to attend to Arafat immediately, even when all he had was a simple cold," said al-Kurdi, who served as Arafat's personal physician for 18 years. "But when his medical situation was really deteriorating, they chose not to call me at all."

According to al-Kurdi, Arafat's wife, Suha, refused to allow the doctor to visit Arafat in the private Paris hospital where he was being treated. Al-Kurdi added that he was denied access to Arafat's body after his death. In the Amman interview, he demanded the French government set up a commission of inquiry.

However, al-Kurdi did not explain why he did not come forth sooner and reveal the information. On September 9, 2005, al-Kurdi told Haaretz that "any doctor would tell you that [Arafat's symptoms] are the symptoms of a poisoning."

Arafat was pronounced dead on November 11 at the age of 75. The exact cause of his illness is unknown. Arab journalists and opinion-shapers have repeatedly accused Israel under former prime minister Ariel Sharon of poisoning Arafat.