Barak Says Right of Return, Temple Mount Not Negotiable

From Associated Press

Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Friday drew what he called his bottom line in any peace deal with the Palestinians: No transfer of sovereignty over Jerusalem's revered Temple Mount to the Palestinians, and no right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Barak spoke after another day of confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel once again clamped a full closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip after bombings that killed two Israelis a day earlier. An Israeli shell killed a Palestinian policeman near the Gaza Strip crossing on Friday, and a stone-throwing clash with Israeli police injured 15 Palestinians.

The Palestinians immediately criticized Barak's remarks, which raised additional doubts about prospects for renewed peace negotiations in the coming weeks.

"This statement affects negatively the peace process and harms efforts that had been made to push it forward," said Nabil Aburedeneh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Barak has said his government is willing to renew talks with the Palestinians based on peace proposals by President Clinton. The Israeli leader has hinted at far-reaching concessions, prompting criticism from some Israelis who say he is going too far in his effort to strike a deal.

But Barak said he wouldn't relinquish sovereignty to the Palestinians of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's walled Old City, the holiest site in Judaism. Palestinians revere the site as Haram al Sharif--noble sanctuary--and demand sovereignty over it.

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