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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 18:36 GMT
Israel 'must halt' Jerusalem dig
Building work near Dome of the Rock
Israel denies the excavations threaten the al-Aqsa mosque
A UN report is calling for an immediate halt to work by the Israeli authorities at a Jerusalem site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

Excavation works close to the Haram al-Sharif/the Temple Mount compound have sparked angry Muslim protests.

The report published today says Israel must draw up a new work plan for the contested site.

It also calls for consultation between Israel, the Muslim authorities and Jordan over the excavation works.

The report by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) also says Israeli excavations comply with "professional" standards.

The Israeli authorities say the dig is meant to salvage archaeological remains ahead of the construction of a new pedestrian walkway to the religious compound located in East Jerusalem.

But the report says that the excavations should be limited to the stability of the structure needed for the consolidation work.

It claims that such information is now available and the excavations should be stopped.

Palestinian critics and Muslim figures internationally say the work could damage the mosque foundations.

Violent Protests

Unesco officials visited the site last month.

The UN report says that the rampway should retain "the values of authenticity and integrity of the site".

It calls for international team of experts lead by Unesco to oversee the construction of the new walkway if it goes ahead.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the UN report proved Israel would not harm Muslim holy sites.

"This totally supports our stance in that this (work) is benign," he told Reuters news agency. "This publicly disputes some of the hateful messages put out there by extremists for political gain."

The initial excavations sparked off violent Muslim protests in East Jerusalem where the religious compound is located.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, a move not recognised internationally.

A spokesman for the Jerusalem municipality has said there would be a public consultation process before any construction works begin.




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