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Arab Countries Warn Israel about New Temple - 2001-07-30

Arab countries are warning Israel not to allow an extremist Jewish group to lay a cornerstone for a new temple at one of Islam's holiest sites.

There will be more bloodshed, and violence will be stoked in the Middle East, that is the warning from Jordan regarding an extremist Jewish group's plan to lay a cornerstone at a Jerusalem site considered holy by Jews and Muslims.

Sunday, Israeli police prevented about 30 Jews belonging to a group called The Temple Mount Faithful from placing a cornerstone for a new temple on a site occupied by the al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem.

Jordan's information minister, Taleb al-Rifal, said the situation is dangerous, and will only further complicate an already deteriorated condition in the region.

The information minister said the laying of a cornerstone is "a provocation of feelings, and like pouring oil on flaming fires." Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, is calling for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Syria's mufti, Sheikh Ahmed Kaftaro, called for Arab leaders to mobilize against extremist Jews he accuses of wanting to destroy al-Aqsa mosque. He says a unified Arab position will push international organizations to intervene, to stop what he called Israel's expansionist and aggressive plans.

Meanwhile, Arab representatives opened talks in Damascus on how to revive the Arab boycott of Israel. That boycott was established in the 1950's with the aim of isolating Israel economically. The boycott was shelved, however, when Arab-Israeli peace talks opened in Madrid in 1991.

In this latest round of discussions, the commissioner general of the Damascus-based Central Office for the Boycott of Israel said reviving the boycott would help liberate Israeli occupied Arab lands. Saudi Arabia's representative said his country supports the boycott.

Nine states of the 22-member Arab League, including Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco, were absent from the meeting.