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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 15:11 GMT
US TV host sorry for Sharon slur
Pat Robertson delivers a speech in Israel in 2004
Mr Robertson is a long-time supporter of Israel
US TV evangelist Pat Robertson has apologised for saying Israeli leader Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for leaving the Gaza Strip.

Mr Robertson wrote to Mr Sharon's son Omri to say he now realised his remarks were "inappropriate and insensitive".

He asked for forgiveness, but there is no suggestion the Israeli authorities will overturn a decision to block a tourism deal with the preacher.

Israel said on Wednesday it would no longer sign a $50m contract with him.

"My concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief experienced because of your father's illness," said Mr Robertson's letter.

Mr Robertson suggested on his popular TV show the stroke was a punishment for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

Theme park

Tourism Ministry official Ram Levi said Israel remained "outraged" by the remarks.

For any prime minister of Israel who decides he's going to carve [the land] up and give it away, God says no, this is mine
Pat Robertson
Earlier this week, the ministry's spokesman Ido Hartuv said Israel would no longer be signing a contract with Mr Robertson to build a biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee.

The centre was expected to cover nearly 35 acres (14 hectares) north-east of the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

It would have had a park, an auditorium, a Holy Land exhibition, outdoor amphitheatres, information centre and a media studio.

The Israeli government had tentatively agreed to provide land and infrastructure for the centre in the hope of generating millions of dollars from tourism.

But relations soured when Mr Robertson said God wanted Israel to be whole and undivided and had therefore punished Mr Sharon for Israel's pull-out from the Gaza Strip last year.

"You read the Bible: This is my land, and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he's going to carve it up and give it away, God says no, this is mine," he said last week.

Mr Hartuv insisted Israel had not rejected outright the idea of building the centre.

"The contract is still open - just not with Mr Robertson," he said.

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