Egypt Insists on Muslim Sovereignty Over Jerusalem Mosque Compound
Egypt insisted Monday that the Jerusalem mosque compound must remain "under exclusive Muslim sovereignty," on the eve of meetings in Washington aimed at rescuing the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Osama al-Baz, President Hosni Mubarak's top advisor, said "Arabs and Palestinians cannot agree to any Israeli sovereignty in this zone," home to the Al-Aqsa mosque.
"The Arab and Islamic nation announced very clearly during the Arab summit in Cairo and the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Doha that only the Muslims have sovereignty over the mosque compound," Baz said.
The first summit was held here October 21-22 and the second in the Qatari capital on November 12-13, both in support of the Palestinians after Israel crackdown on a new Palestinian uprising that erupted in late September.
Egypt's state-run news agency said Baz delivered his remarks overnight Sunday during a public gathering of Egyptians celebrating the traditional end of dawn-to-dusk fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Mubarak warned Sunday "nobody can touch the sacredness of the blessed al-Aqsa mosque, for the rights of God cannot be violated."
The two statements served to firm up the stand of the Palestinians before they hold separate talks in Washington Tuesday with US President Bill Clinton to see if they can clinch a peace deal before he leaves office on January 20.
During his speech to the opening of the new parliament on Sunday, Mubarak claimed the new Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, was triggered by a "hostile and thoughtless plot directed against the al-Aqsa mosque."
The unrest, which has claimed more than 330 lives broke out after Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, a hate-figure to the Palestinians, visited al-Aqsa, which stands on the site of the Jewish temple, on September 28.
The troubles also came months after Clinton hosted the Camp David summit in July, which failed mainly over the future of the Jerusalem holy sites.
Egypt plays a key intermediary role in the peace process as the first Arab country to have signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, the basis for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace -- CAIRO (AFP)
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