- RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP)
- A Palestinian minister warned Tuesday that Israel's insistence on sovereignty
over Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam,
risked sparking a prolonged religious war.
- Culture and information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said
the Israeli government was "playing with fire" over Haram al-Sharif
or Noble Sanctuary, the site of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the
- "Trying to touch or to play with the issue of al-Aqsa
will lead to a religious war and replace attempts to reach peace and reconciliation
with hatred and religious war which would last for generations," Abed
Rabbo told reporters here.
- The fate of the area, known to Jews as Temple Mount as
it is built over the site of the Jewish Second Temple, which was destroyed
by the Romans in 70 A.D. is a key stumbling block in efforts to find an
Israeli Palestinian peace accord.
- "Any attempt to touch even a stone in the Aqsa mosque
will provoke more than a billion Muslims all over the world," Abed
- Israel is insisting it will not yield on sovereignty
over the site, which lies in the Old City of east Jerusalem, occupied by
the Jewish state in war in 1967 and annexed as part of its "unified,
- The claim is not recognised by the international community
and the Palestinians want sovereignty over all of east Jerusalem as the
capital of a future independent state.
- Meanwhile, Abed Rabbo said peace negotiations would resume
"before the end of the week," and described Israeli attempts
to delay the talks as a "manoeuvre."
- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat announced at the weekend
that the talks were set to resume, but no date for meetings was confirmed
by Israel, although acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami said there were
- Abed Rabbo also warned that it would be "dangerous"
if Israel did not abide by commitments under interim accords.
- "The Israelis have to remember that part of our
commitment was security so the commitments of the interim period still
exist and Israel has to implement its part," he said.
- Abed Rabbo also that a declaration of statehood had been
put off for a "short time" and that the PLO Executive Committee
will be taking steps to prepare for a state including the organisation
of elections and preparing a draft for a constitution.
- Israel hailed the PLO Central Council's decision to defer
the declaration from the much-trumpeted date of September 13, a deadline
for a peace accord certain to pass without an agreement.
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