JERUSALEM – A former Israeli official on Wednesday denied suspicions that Israel poisoned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as France prepared to begin an investigation into his possible murder following a Swiss lab’s claim that it found traces of a deadly substance on his belongings.

Dov Weisglass, chief of staff to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the time of Arafat’s death in 2004 and a key participant in deliberations surrounding Arafat’s worsening health, said Israel had no reason to physically harm the Palestinian leader. For the last two years of Arafat’s life, Israel confined him to his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

“Israel did not have any hand in this,” Weisglass told Israel’s Army Radio station on Wednesday.

Weisglass said that he and another Israeli official were dining in Brussels with the EU’s foreign policy chief at the time, Javier Solana, when the diplomat’s cell phone rang call close to midnight: Then-Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia was on the line saying that Arafat needed immediate medical attention at a Ramallah hospital. Would Israel allow him to leave his compound?

Weisglass said he called Sharon at his home and he immediately approved the request.

The next morning, Weisglass said, the European diplomat called him to say Palestinian doctors in Ramallah said Arafat was very ill and needed to be evacuated for better treatment in Europe.

A Palestinian informant close to Arafat’s doctors in Ramallah said Arafat had only days to live.

Sharon immediately permitted Arafat to seek medical treatment in France so Israel could not be accused of exacerbating his illness, Weisglass said.

Arafat, 75, died about two weeks later on Nov. 11, 2004.