There are a lot of controversies surrounding the Nov. 11, 2004, death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, but the subject of his religious faith was never one of them. That is, until now.

In an interview published this week by a British Christian Web site, R.T. Kendall, a retired American pastor and prominent Christian writer, says his efforts to convert Arafat from Islam to Christianity may have borne fruit.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see him in heaven," Kendall tells Premier Christianity magazine."I prayed with him five times, anointed him with oil, I gave him a [salvation] prayer… I'm not saying I know that he’s saved; I'm saying I wouldn't be surprised."

Kendall claims to have struck up a relationship with Arafat in 2002, facilitated by Canon Andrew White, a prominent Anglican cleric in Baghdad and an envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Middle East. Kendall says he met Arafat five times; on the third occasion, the Palestinian leader watched Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ."

"Arafat is in tears" by the film's end, Kendall says. On subsequent visits, Kendall apparently forced the issue, believing Arafat was secretly inclined to embrace Christianity but afraid of upsetting his Palestinian supporters.

In one meeting, Kendall describes what he says to Arafat through an interpreter: "I've come today with a proposition: I want you to confess openly, tell the world, that Jesus Christ died for his sins."

Kendall went on: "If you will do that," speaking to Arafat, "first of all you'll be given a peace unlike everything you've had in your life. You'll be given wisdom, which you need. You'll then be able to encourage many Arabs that have had dreams of Jesus."

"What I'm asking you to do will take more courage than anything you've ever done: that is to say before cameras that Jesus Christ died for your sins," Kendall supposedly concluded.

At this point, according to Kendall's narration, White attempts to change the conversation. Arafat simply blows the American proselytizer a kiss, which somehow reinforces Kendall's conviction that the Palestinian leader has come over to his side.

When Arafat died in 2004, Kendall says, he received phone calls from friends who supposedly had visions corroborating Arafat's embrace of Jesus.

If this sounds highly dubious to you, that's because it probably is. There are no other accounts of such a conversion.

Indeed, the main Arafat conversion story is that of his widow, Suha Arafat, who converted to Islam when she married the Palestinian leader in 1990.

In recent years, the main intrigue that surrounds Arafat has had to do with the nature of his death in a Paris hospital. Speculation that he may have been poisoned, possibly by the Israelis, led to a series of medical investigations, most of which have concluded that he was not poisoned.

The inquiries required his corpse being exhumed and reburied in a swift six-hour procedure. For Arafat, it was no resurrection.