Page last updated at 08:16 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Secularist voted Jerusalem mayor

Nir Barkat (R) is congratulated by a supporter following partial results
Nir Barkat is on his second attempt to become Jerusalem mayor

Israeli secular politician Nir Barkat has defeated an ultra-orthodox rabbi to become the new mayor of Jerusalem.

Mr Barkat won outright with 52% of the vote while Meir Porush received 43%, according to final results released by Israel's interior ministry.

The hard-fought campaign has raised tensions between Israel's religious and secular Jews.

Claiming victory, Mr Barkat promised to be "everybody's mayor", regardless of who people had voted for.

"I'm aware of the depth of the challenge and the complexity of the mission. Now is the time to work together for the good of the city," Mr Barkat told his supporters.

The 49-year-old's victory ends a five-year rule of ultra-Orthodox Mayor Uri Lupolianski.

Major challenges

Mr Barkat opposes dividing Jerusalem as part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians and has promised to build extensively in what the rest of the world regards as occupied East Jerusalem.

Former paratrooper
High-tech entrepreneur
Jerusalem city councillor
Campaigned on a secular ticket

Most Palestinians and Israeli Arabs - who account for about a third of Jerusalem's population - have not taken part in the election.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most hotly-contested issues in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Israelis see the city as their capital, and Palestinians want to locate the capital of a future state in the east of the city, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Israeli-Arab war.

Correspondents say that as well as handling the political tensions, the mayor faces major challenges improving traffic flow and cleanliness, tackling high property prices and attracting fresh business to the city.

Local elections took place in 160 other areas of Israel ahead of national polls on 10 February.

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