• PALESTINE \ Jan 10, 2003
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    Greek Orthodox patriarch met Arafat for Christmas
Greek Orthodox patriarch met Arafat for Christmas The Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irineos met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on Sunday.

Sources at the patriarchate said that the meeting - the first official one the two have had since Irineos was elected patriarch in August 2000 - was to mark the Orthodox Christmas, which was celebrated on Tuesday.

Irineos has denied in the past having close relations with the PA or with Arafat.

While the patriarch is elected by the Orthodox bishops, the sovereigns of the areas under the authority of the Jerusalem Patriarchate must approve his appointment, and Israel has still not done so. Both the PA and Jordan have approved the appointment.

Two weeks ago Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened a special ministerial committee appointed to handle the matter to bring the approval of Irineos' appointment to a vote in the government. Ministers from the right torpedoes the move.

The following day, the Ma'ariv daily published a letter allegedly written by Irineos to Arafat, containing anti-Semitic statements against Jews and Israel. Irineos claimed the letter was a forgery and filed a complaint with the police on the matter.