Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:45 pm (KSA) 16:45 pm (GMT)

There were no millions, Arafat's widow says

The late Yasser Arafat with Suha (File)
The late Yasser Arafat with Suha (File)

As Palestinians marked the third anniversary on Sunday of the death of their iconic leader Yasser Arafat, his widow finally broke her silence and denied rumors that she inherited millions after his death.

Suha Arafat was said to have inherited houses, properties and millions of dollars, but she denied reports that she lives in luxury and extravagance.

"This is just Arab and Western propaganda that started on the eve of the siege and didn't stop at his death. It's an attempt to defame him as a symbol," Suha told the London-based daily Al-Hayat.

Suha said she gets a monthly pension of 10,000 dollars from the Palestinian Authority. "Everybody knows that...This money is to pay for [their daughter] Zahwa's education and to secure a decent life for us."

Arafat died a mysterious death in a Paris hospital on November 11, 2004. Several Palestinian officials accused Israel of poisoning him but medical officials have never managed to confirm the cause of death.

"Nobody knows how he died. Even the medical reports didn't say anything. His secret was buried with him," Suha told the daily.

When he went into a coma, doctors told her that some patients regain consciousness when they listen to music or stories they like.

"I played Quran recordings day and night at the intensive care unit and kept telling him about his childhood and going back to Jerusalem," the widow recalled.

Arafat spent his last years under Israeli siege at his Ramallah residence, then was transferred to France where he died at the age of 75.

Suha vowed to do everything she can to transfer her husband's tomb from the West Bank city of Ramallah to Jerusalem where he wanted to be buried.

Hamas tribute

The Gaza Strip is now controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas, which opposed Arafat's policies during his lifetime and seized power in mid-June after routing security forces loyal to his successor, president Mahmoud Abbas.

But even Hamas praised the former leader.

"We agreed with president Abu Ammar [Arafat] a lot and we disagreed with him a lot, but in spite of this we consider him a symbol of the Palestinian nation," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP.

"His memory will endure forever, in every Palestinian boy and girl, in every man regardless of his political affiliations," he added.

In the West Bank, tens of thousands of people gathered in the political capital of Ramallah, where Abbas was due to deliver a speech at the Muqataa compound in which Arafat spent the last two years of his life under siege by Israeli forces.

Dozens of Palestinian leaders and foreign dignitaries gathered there on Saturday to open a new mausoleum complex, kicking off the series of events planned across the Palestinian territories.

Arafat "was the embodiment of steadfastness in the face of storms, and was unwavering in clinging to Palestinian national rights," Taysir Khaled, a senior member of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said on Saturday.

"In his size and stature he transcended the borders of his country, Palestine," he added.

In the run-up to the anniversary, official Palestinian television has been broadcasting songs glorifying Arafat. One of the songs is full of longing for the man "with the big heart who departed and left us alone".

Images of Arafat wearing his trademark black-and-white checkered keffiyeh headdress and excerpts of his speeches have been flashed across the screen.

Arafat's tomb, guarded round the clock by members of the presidential guard, has become an obligatory rite of passage for foreign dignitaries who come to meet Abbas at the Muqataa.

(Some translation from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

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