Islamic Conference warns of war after "sacrilege" of Al-Aqsa

Islamic Conference warns of war after "sacrilege" of Al-Aqsa

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) warned Saturday of a new "religious war" and condemned the Israeli "assault on the sanctities of Muslims" after new Al-Aqsa clashes on Friday, dpa reported.

The Secretary general of the pan-Islamic body Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said in a statement that the Israeli police intervention in the Temple Mount Friday was a "sacrilegious act of profanation of the holy Islamic site" and a "violation of international law".

Ihsanoglu condemned the Israeli "assault on freedom of worship" and warned that it "would drag the region into a religious war".

The OIC is a 57-member-state body aimed at representing the Muslim world, and has a permanent representative at the United Nations.

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell was due to arrive in the region Saturday, ahead of expected "proximity talks", in which Israeli and Palestinian officials will seek to find a way back to the negotiating table via indirect discussions.

"We expect both parties to act seriously and in good faith. If one side, in our judgement, is not living up to our expectations, we will make our concerns clear and we will act accordingly to overcome that obstacle," a US administration communique published in the Haaretz newspaper Saturday said.

The Islamic Organisation also called the international community and particularly the (Middle East) Quartet to "pay attention to the seriousness of Israeli violations" and to take "effective action" in order to preserve the respect of the international law.

Israeli police stormed the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif plateau after Muslims who participated in Friday prayers threw stones at Jews praying at the Wailing Wall underneath the compound.

Some 50 policemen entered the open-air plateau, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, and fired stun grenades to disperse at the crowd. Around 60 of the several hundred protesters were treated for teargas inhalation, near 15 policemen were slightly injured and five of them taken to hospital.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Friday's events could damage the chances of resuming the peace process.

"Israel continues to place obstacles in front of (US Middle East envoy George) Mitchell's efforts" to revive long-stalled peace negotiations, Abbas told Palestine Television on Friday.

The East Jerusalem clash comes as Israel and the Palestinians may announce the start of indirect peace negotiations early next week.

The talks would end a 15-month freeze in negotiations, broken off as Israel headed into new elections last year, which saw the hardline Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu return to power.

The new visit of Mitchell to the region will be reinforced by the arrival of the US Vice President Joe Biden Monday, who will visit Israel and the West Bank for the first time as vice president.

The Arab League, meeting in Cairo Wednesday, lent its support to the indirect talks, albeit with a four-month deadline.

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