U.N. asks Israel halt work at Al-Aqsa

March 14, 2007 at 7:08 PM
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PARIS, March 14 (UPI) -- The United Nations wants Israel to stop work on access to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City and consult with Muslim religious authorities.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said Wednesday while Israeli archaeological work for an access pathway in Jerusalem's Old City does not threaten the Al-Aqsa Mosque and complies with professional standards, an expert's report said it would like I excavations stopped for meetings on a final plan with the Muslim authorities and other parties concerned.

The report, drafted by a technical mission sent by UNESCO amid international concerns over the excavation, said Israel "should be asked to stop immediately" since work already undertaken was deemed sufficient to assess structural conditions for the pathway to the Mughrabi Gate after a partial collapse in 2004 due to heavy rain and snow.

The report said, no there was work inside the Haram es-Sharif area containing the mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, and excavations ended about 30 feet from the Western Wall, considered a holy site by the Jews as a remnant of the Biblical temples.

The Islamic Waqf (religious authorities) of Jerusalem has called the work illegal since it says under international law no action should be undertaken in an occupied city.

The Waqf asked UNESCO to intervene, saying it also feared excavation would destroy the last vestiges of an old Muslim quarter demolished after 1967.

Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 war.

The mission spent four days in Jerusalem, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It said Israel should clearly define a final design which should restore the Mughrabi pathway without major change in structure or shape.

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