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Israel Detains Jerusalem's Islamic Leader During Protest of Repairs Near Mosque Complex


Israeli police have detained an Arab Israeli Islamic leader and several of his followers who were protesting Israeli excavation and repair work on a ramp leading to two Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

Police said the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Raed Salah, and six others were taken into custody Wednesday, after the group refused to follow police instructions.

Israeli police are restricting access to the holy sites as the work continues.

Palestinian leaders have called the project an aggression. They say Israel is endangering the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock Shrine by building a new ramp near their foundations.

Jordan and Egypt have both called on Israel to halt construction, warning of potential violence from Muslim anger.

Israeli officials say the construction of a new ramp is no threat to the mosques.

The compound, which Muslim call the Noble Sanctuary and Jews call the Temple Mount, is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In other news, the U.S. State Department has confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on February 19.

No venue for the talks has been announced. The meeting is aimed at reviving Palestinian-Israeli peace talks which were suspended some six years ago.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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