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Pope Calls for Palestinian Homeland

Pope Benedict XVI has called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a position that could put him at odds with Israel's new government.

During a speech in Tel Aviv Monday, the pope urged all involved to explore every possible avenue for a just resolution so that "both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own" with secure, "internationally recognized borders."

New Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was present as the pontiff spoke. The prime minister has resisted promising a separate Palestinian homeland.

Later, Pope Benedict paid tribute to the millions of Jews killed during the Holocaust, rekindling the eternal flame at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. In somber remarks, the pontiff said the victims of the tragedy should never be forgotten, denied or belittled.

The pope's Holy Land pilgrimage comes as many Israeli Jews remain angry about his decision to remove the excommunication of a bishop who denied the Holocaust.

Pope Benedict Monday called anti-Semitism "totally unacceptable," and he pledged to honor the memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust.

At an interfaith gathering of Muslims, Jews and Christians, a prominent Palestinian cleric commandeered the microphone and gave an unscheduled speech denouncing Israel's recent war in Gaza and its occupation of the West Bank. Taysir Tamimi called on Christians and Muslims to work together against Israel.

A Vatican spokesman called Tamimi's comments a "direct negation" of what dialogue should be.

Also Monday, Pope Benedict had a public appearance with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the president's Jerusalem residence.

Later in the week, the pope will tour sites in Israel and the West Bank, and will meet with Palestinian officials.

This visit to the Middle East is Benedict's first as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

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