• March 03, 2002
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    Cabinet approves decision to halt work on Nazareth mosque
Cabinet approves decision to halt work on Nazareth mosque
The cabinet approved the decision of a special ministerial committee that construction of the controversial Nazareth mosque be halted, Israel Radio reported Sunday.

The building of the mosque has angered the Vatican and other international Christian groups because of its location right in front of Nazareth's most important church, the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Deputy mayor of Nazareth, Salman Abu Ahmed, a senior member of the waqf Muslim religious trust, condemned the committee's decision, but added that it did not surprise him. "Sharon, the murderer of Sabra and Chatilla children, has declared war not only on the Palestinians in the territories but also on the entire Palestinian people," he said.

Waqf members are to discuss the decision and its implications on Sunday, and to decide whether to continue with the construction of the mosque despite the committee's decision.

Housing Minister Natan Sharansky, who heads the committee, has also said several times that his committee does not intend merely to reiterate the recommendations of two previous ministerial committees set up by the Barak and Netanyahu governments. Both of those committees advised letting the mosque be built.

Sharansky said the previous committees did not properly assess the impact the mosque would have on Israel's long-term international relations, "on both the political and the religious level." In addition to opposition from the Vatican, several western governments, including that of the U.S., have expressed concern about the mosque.

Sharansky said he did not see any chance of reaching a compromise on the issue, such as permitting a mosque to be built on the site, but one of much more modest dimensions than the current plan calls for. Neither the Muslims nor the Christians would be satisfied by a such a compromise, he said.

However, he added, he did believe it was possible to find a solution "that would respect the basic interests of both communities."

The police, however, have spent the last two weeks preparing for the possibility that the committee's decision could spark Muslim riots.

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