Israel adopts compromise plan in mosque dispute

April 20, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JERUSALEM -- Israel has adopted a compromise plan to resolve a violent dispute in Nazareth between Muslims and Christians. The plan would allow a small mosque to be built next to a planned plaza for millennium pilgrims.

The conflict over Muslim plans to build a large mosque on the site of the plaza set off clashes for several days this month in the Israeli Arab town, which is revered by Christians as the boyhood home of Jesus. The Vatican and church leaders warned that millennial celebrations there, including an expected visit by Pope John Paul II, could be jeopardized.

In an effort to avert further unrest and friction with the Christian authorities, a committee of senior Israeli officials decided on the compromise Sunday after several unsuccessful mediation efforts.

The office of the Vatican's envoy to Israel declined to comment on the plan but Muslim leaders in Nazareth rejected it, setting the stage for perhaps months of further litigation before the government takes action.

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