PARIS -- Yasser Arafat's half brother insisted yesterday that the Palestinian people are entitled to know the cause of their leader's death, but Arafat's widow threatened a legal fight over the medical file in an ugly family tug of war.
Mohsen Arafat's spoke a day after his widow, Suha, took possession of the medical records and her lawyer hinted that a legal showdown could ensue if relatives got copies.
''If the hospital made a copy -- I don't know if they did; they didn't tell me -- but in principle, it does not have the right to," said her lawyer, Jean-Marie Burguburu.
Mohsen Arafat told Al-Arabiya television from Abu Dhabi that ''we are ready to hand over the records to the Palestinian Authority," explaining ''it is the right of the Palestinian people" to know what killed their leader.
Yasser Arafat's nephew Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative at the United Nations, was dispatched by the family to Paris to pick up a copy of the medical records.
The Palestinian leadership promised to make the information public once Kidwa secured the file.
Kidwa was in Cairo yesterday visiting a sick family member. He said by telephone that he was sticking by his plans to come to Paris, but he did not know exactly when he would make the trip.
The 75-year-old Yasser Arafat, suffering from a mystery illness, was flown to Paris on Oct. 29 for medical treatment at Percy Military Training Hospital, in the southwestern Paris suburb of Clamart. He died Nov. 11.
The lack of information about his medical condition and cause of death has proved fertile ground for widespread rumors in the Arab world that Arafat was poisoned, despite official denials.
Burguburu declined to give any details about the contents of the file the leader's widow holds, but said she was considering whether to release the information to the public.
''The decision is in the process of being examined," he said.