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Jordan-Israel declaration on holy shrines angers PLO

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BY asserting a major role for King Hussein in determining the final status of Jerusalem, the Washington Declaration dealt a serious blow to the Palestinian claim of sovereignty over the holy city, according to Jordanian and Palestinian analysts here.

The Washington Declaration was seen here to signal Jordanian acceptance of a solution for Jerusalem based on international religious supervision by the custodians of the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish holy sites, rather than a political resolution.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), based in the autonomous area of the Gaza Strip, responded swiftly to the Declaration, accusing Israel of violating the September Palestinian self-rule agreement under which both parties pledged not to take steps to prejudice the final status of Jerusalem. ``Israel has no right to grant any party jurisdiction over the holy sites in Jerusalem.... It is an occupying power and cannot defer such rights to anyone,'' a Palestinian spokesman said on behalf of the PA.

The Washington Declaration recognized King Hussein as the legitimate custodian of the Islamic holy shrines in East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, and pledged ``to give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in the shrines,'' at the final status negotiations.

Political analysts in Jordan believe that the Israeli acceptance of Jordan's role in determining the future of the Islamic shrines in Jerusalem was crucial for King Hussein's agreement to end the state of war and begin normalizing relations with Israel.

But the Declaration has further fueled an already seething conflict between King Hussein and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat over East Jerusalem.

Though the Declaration only mentions the holy sites, the third in importance in the Muslim world, Palestinians say it amounted to a Jordanian acceptance of Israeli jurisdiction over Jerusalem, which, they say, undermines their claim to the holy city.

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