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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Vatican renews Jerusalem plea
Mrs Albright(l) meets Vatican Foreign Minister, Jean Louis Tauran
The US has been seeking Vatican help over the Middle East
The Vatican has reaffirmed its belief that Jerusalem should be granted special international status because of its importance to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The Vatican issued a brief statement after a 50-minute meeting between its foreign minister, Monsignor Jean Luis Tauran, and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"Monsignor Tauran reaffirmed the previously known position of the Holy See on the conditions of a just and long-lasting peace in this region of the world," the statement said.

Jerusalem remains one of the central issues holding up any Middle East peace agreement.

But Mrs Albright said neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were interested in such a scheme of granting a special international status to the disputed city.

Camp David talks

The Vatican talks come after the breakdown of the Camp David peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Pope John Paul II has frequently called for the city of Jerusalem to be granted special international status but his appeals have so far failed.

The aim of Tuesday's meeting at the Vatican with Archbishop Tauran was to bring Vatican diplomats up to date on the results of the Camp David talks.

The meeting also examined whether the Vatican could have any useful role to play in furthering the stalled peace process in the Middle East.

Good relations

Our correspondent says that for the Roman Catholic Church, the talks are an important acknowledgement of the concern felt in Rome at the diminishing Christian presence in the Middle East.

Many Palestinian Catholics have emigrated to other continents and the custody of the Christian holy places in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon is shared between many Christian churches.

Mrs Albright also intended to use the Vatican's good relations with the Palestinians to help persuade Yasser Arafat to accept a compromise solution over the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.

The Vatican wants a solution for Jerusalem involving all three major religions, establishing future religious, as well as secular harmony.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | Middle East
Israeli president courts controversy
30 Jul 00 | Middle East
Mid-East talks start again
29 Jul 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Blinded by the light
27 Jul 00 | Middle East
Clinton upbeat after Camp David
26 Jul 00 | Middle East
Arafat and Barak return from summit
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