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Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 17:14 UK

Press operations compete on Pope coverage

Pope Benedict surrounded by security and media after alighting from an Israeli army helicopter for a ceremony at the Mount Scopus
Pope Benedict surrounded by security and media as he arrives for a ceremony at the Mount Scopus

The BBC's Rome correspondent David Willey is in Jerusalem covering the Pope Benedict's visit to the Holy Land. He reports on the competition between Israeli and Palestinian press officials for the attention of the visiting press.

Our Vatican Press group was welcomed to our hotel in Jerusalem last night by a representative of the Israeli Tourist Board who invited us to what he promised would be a jolly party on Tuesday evening to see Jerusalem by night.

I also received on arrival an email from the Palestinian Presidency press office inviting me to a press conference today at a hotel in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians were planning to open a media centre for the duration of the papal visit.

POPE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Monday Arrives in Israel, meets President Shimon Peres
Tuesday Visits Western Wall, meets Chief Rabbis
Wednesday Visits Bethlehem, visits refugees, meets Mahmoud Abbas
Thursday Mass in Nazareth, talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, meets Franciscans
Friday Meets Orthodox Christian leaders, departs

The subject: interfaith dialogue. The participants: a prominent Muslim, the Grand Mufti of Palestine and Jerusalem, and the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; two authoritative voices, one Muslim, one Catholic.

But Israel's Minister for internal security, citing an agreement from the 1990s, delivered a written order to the hotel banning the Palestinians from opening their own media centre.

So the Palestinian media centre is to be a tent belonging to a Palestinian family whose home has been recently demolished as part of what Palestinians say is an Israeli plan gradually to squeeze Palestinians out of East Jerusalem.

In the event I was too busy broadcasting from the BBC bureau on the other side of the city to attend the Palestinian briefing.

And so many roads in Jerusalem have been closed for security reasons during the Pope's visit, that I would never have got to the tent in time.

But it might have been an interesting experience.



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