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Israel Cuts Ties With Evangelical Broadcaster Over Sharon Stroke Comments

Israeli officials say they will not work with American evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson on a planned Christian tourism venture after he suggested that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for the Gaza Strip pullout.

A spokesman for Israel's tourism minister condemned Robertson's comment last week that God punished Mr. Sharon "for dividing Israel." The spokesman said the Tourism Ministry would no longer work with the television evangelist, nor anyone else who agrees with his views, on the planned "Christian Heritage Center" in northern Israel.

The controversial preacher heads a group of Christian evangelicals who are trying to raise $50 million for a 14-hectare tourist venue in northern Galilee where Christians believe Jesus lived and taught.

Israel had been considering leasing the land to the group for free, anticipating millions of dollars in tourism revenue.

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