PARIS - Three French judges are preparing to travel to Ramallah to seek the exhumation of Yasser Arafat's body as part of an investigation into whether he was murdered by poison, a judicial source told Reuters on Wednesday.

The investigating magistrates will need approval from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has already expressed his government's willingness to exhume the body from a limestone sepulcher in Ramallah.

Arafat's widow, Suha, said in a statement sent to Reuters that the judges told her lawyer they had begun the necessary steps to travel to Ramallah, where police experts would carry out tests under their authority.

"I respectfully ask the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League to suspend all initiatives while the French justice system is looking into the case, other than to act together with them," Suha Arafat wrote.

The French murder investigation "should take precedence over all other procedures, because it is the incontestable guarantee of independence and neutrality", she added.

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