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New US Law on Jerusalem Angers Arabs - 2002-10-02

Arab leaders are reacting angrily to a new U.S. law that formally recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinians and other Arabs say they don't want Jerusalem recognized as Israel's capital until there is a Palestinian state that has Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat described the new law as a "catastrophe."

Mohamed Sobeih, the Palestinian representative to the Arab League in Cairo, says the United States, by saying that it considers Jerusalem the capital of Israel, is ignoring what the city means to people of other religions.

"Jerusalem is a very sensitive city for all religions in the area," said Mr. Sobeih. "It hurts the feelings and beliefs of every Muslim. I think it is complicating the relations between the United States and the Arab and Muslim masses."

But Palestinians are not the only ones voicing opposition. On Wednesday, Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi, called the new law an insult to Arab countries.

In Syria, an editorial Wednesday in the government-run newspaper al Thawra said the move would further undermine U.S. relations with Arabs.

The new law will take effect next year. U.S. officials have said the law will not change Bush administration policy on the need for a negotiated solution between Israel and Palestine.

Walid Kazziha, political science professor at the American University in Cairo, says that by signing the law, Mr. Bush hurt prospects for getting a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

"He will be jeopardizing long years of hard work on the part of the previous American administrations who have been trying to handle this very sensitive issue of Palestinian-Israeli relations," said Prof. Kazziha.

The U.S. administration has also said it will ignore the provision of the bill that calls for the U.S. embassy in Israel to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.