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Radiation found where ex-spy ate, UK officials say

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NEW: Radiation traces found where former spy ate, met other spies
• Health officials say Alexander Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning
• UK holds meeting of top-level Cabinet team that gathers for civil emergencies
• British diplomats ask Moscow to assist police inquiry into the death
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Traces of radioactive material that apparently killed a former Russian spy investigating the death of a Russian journalist were found at places where he ate and met other spies just before falling ill, British authorities said Friday.

In a statement released after his death on Thursday, Alexander Litvinenko blamed a "barbaric and ruthless" Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attack. Putin called the death a tragedy, but accused opponents of "political provocation."

Experts from the British Health Protection Agency, called in after radiation was suspected in the death on Thursday of the 43-year-old, confirmed that a large dose of polonium-210 was found in Litvinenko's body.(Watch how radioactive material apparently killed ex-spy Video)

A London restaurant and parts of a hotel Litvinenko visited before falling ill on November 1 were closed Friday as police continued their probe, Scotland Yard said.

"Traces of Polonium-210 were found at the Itsu sushi restaurant in Piccadilly, the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square, and at Mr. Litvinenko's home in Muswell Hill, London," Scotland Yard said in a statement. "We are not prepared to discuss further."

Roger Cox, head of the HPA's radiation protection branch, confirmed that the radiation was found in Litvinenko's body.

"A large quantity of alpha radiation from polonium-210 was found in the urine of Mr. Litvinenko", Cox said, adding that it was "unlikely" that the radioactive material came from natural sources.

At a meeting Friday with Russian Ambassador Yury Fedotov at the Foreign Office in London, British diplomats asked Moscow to assist a police inquiry into the death, government officials said. Putin has pledged Russia's cooperation, The Associated Press reported.

Britain held a meeting of COBRA, its top-level Cabinet team that gathers for civil emergencies, a Home Office spokeswoman said.

Litvinenko died in a London hospital, three weeks after what Litvinenko said was his suspected poisoning, hospital and police said. Radiation tests also are being conducted at University College and the Barnet General where Litvinenko was treated, police said.

A decision on what caused his illness will not be available until after an autopsy, health officials said.

A statement issued Friday by Britain Home Secretary's office Reid said radiation was suspected in Litvinenko's death.

"The Metropolitan Police are currently investigating the death of Alexander Litvinenko which is believed to be linked to the presence of a radioactive substance in his body," Reid's statement says. (Read what Litvinenko did in the hours before being hospitalized)

"As part of this investigation, the police have called in expert assistance to search for any residual radioactive material at a number of locations." Reid said health authorities would issue public statements "as appropriate."

Longtime critic

An autopsy of Litvinenko will not be conducted until after health agency experts assess the risk to autopsy personnel from radiation, said Prof. Pat Troop, chairman of the Health Protection Agency.

Poisoning by polonium-210 is very rare, said Cox.

"I've been in radiation research for more than 30 years and I've never heard of this before," Cox said. Litvinenko most likely was poisoned by adding the material to food or drink given the large amount of polonium in his body, Cox said.

Polonium is a naturally radioactive metallic element found in pitchblend, unrefined uranium ore. It was discovered in 1898 by Marie Curie. It can also be produced by bombarding bismuth or lead with neutrons. (What is polonium)

Litvinenko was a longtime critic of the Russian government, which he and his friends blamed for his sudden illness earlier this month. Russian authorities have denied any role in the matter.

In a statement read after his death, Litvinenko accused Putin of orchestrating his killing and said the Russian leader would face "a howl of protest from around the world."

"You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics claim," he said in the statement released Friday.

"You may succeed in silencing one man. But a howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done."

Litvinenko spokesman Alex Goldfarb said the statement was dictated on November 21 from the man's London hospital bed. (Read full statement)

The statement also said: "You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value. You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women."

Putin, speaking later Friday at news conference in Helsinki, Finland, called Litvinenko's death a tragedy.

But he said British medical documents did not show "that it was a result of violence, this is not a violent death, so there is no ground for speculations of this kind."

On Wednesday, FSB spokesman Sergei Ivanov suggested the culprit lay among Litvinenko's associates in London. And others say Litvinenko had underworld connections that might have been behind his poisoning.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Alexander Litvinenko lies in bed in a London hospital in a photograph released by his family on Monday.

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