• ISRAEL \ Jan 14, 2002
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    Sharon strongly opposes building mosque next to Nazareth church
Sharon strongly opposes building mosque next to Nazareth church Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that he was adamantly opposed to the construction of the Shihab a-Din mosque close to the Christian Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Addressing foreign journalists, Sharon said he had been against the construction of the mosque since the affair had broken in late 1997, during his term of office as construction and housing minister. The prime minister said he had spoken to Muslim leaders in Nazareth and had asked them to refrain from going ahead with the construction at the disputed site and to consider alternative locations for the mosque.

Muslim leaders in the city reacted angrily to Sharon's statements, saying: "This is an attempt by Sharon to curry favor with and move closer to the Christian world following the harsh image he created for himself after preventing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat from traveling to Bethlehem for Christmas Mass."

U.S. President George W. Bush, however, has expressed satisfaction with last week's decision by the security-political cabinet to suspend construction of the mosque at the site.

Next week, a ministerial committee appointed by the cabinet and headed by Construction and Housing Minister Natan Sharansky will submit its recommendations on the matter.