WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State George Shultz, calling such a move 'a giant aggravation' to many countries and religions, says President Reagan will not permit Congress to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A bill requiring the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem is expected to come to a vote in Congress in mid-May.
Jerusalem is the second most holy city in the Moslem world, and there have been repeated attempts by Israeli or Christian extremists to damage the sacred spots, including the al-Aqsa mosque near the Wailing Wall in the old city.
Moslems accuse Israeli archeologists of vandalizing Islamic relics in their digs to find traces of early Jewish life. The embassy move would be seen by the Arabs as U.S. blessing for the Israeli annexation of the old city.
Shultz said Sunday 'it would be very bad for the United States if such legislation passes, even if it doesn't become law,' because it would send 'a very bad signal across the world.'
Shultz, interviewed on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' said he thought even supporters of the measure were beginning to worry about it repercussions.
'My impression is that people in the Congress, more and more, are having second thoughts about this and looking around for some way they might defuse this issue,' he said.
Shultz said moving the embassy 'would be a gigantic aggravation to important religions, particularly the Moslems' and would 'damage our ability to be effective in the peace process.'
'I can tell you the president is very much opposed to it and will not move that embassy,' he said. 'What he will do in a particular piece of legislation, I don't think it's wise for me to predict, but I know that he'll oppose that move.'
Similar bills have been introduced in previous congressional sessions, most recently in 1982, but they evaporated for lack of support and because of objections by the State Department.
This time, however, according to Bob King, administrative assistant to Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., the sponsors have united in a push to pass the measure.
'In the past,' he said, 'everybody was a Lone Ranger. This time we coordinated our efforts.'
There are 37 sponsors of the Senate bill, so far, and 211 sponsors of the House version -- 74 of them Republicans who are defying the administration on the issue.
The Israeli government, directly and through its lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has helped make the embassy issue a major one.
The committee is a potent lobbying force, especially in the early stages of the Democratic presidential nomination fight, because it can focus money and the energy of the American Jewish community - acknowledged by members of Congress to be the single most effective ethnic bloc.
At a recent meeting of the United Jewish Appeal in New York, both Gary Hart and Walter Mondale came out strongly in favor of the Jerusalem embassy move. Mondale, who as vice president supported President Carter in opposing the proposal, accused Hart of being a late-comer to the issue. Hart denied it, then apologized for his past stand, then said he didn't apologize.
Belatedly, in early March, the Islamic embassies in Washington - representing 23 countries stretching from Morocco to Indonesia and counting 1 billion people -- began their own lobbying campaign.
On Tuesday, a delegation of Moslem envoys warned Shultz of the possible impact the embassy move could have around the world.
The envoys also noted that the United States, in 1980, voted in the U.N. Security Council to oppose any country moving its embassy to Jerusalem until the ownership of the city should be decided.
One backer of the embassy bill said: 'So, governments can change their minds, and it wouldn't be the first time we ignored the United Nations. We did in Grenada.'