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Church officials criticise US support for Israeli PM

A Jerusalem Catholic official said the Palestinians' right of return to their homeland was a basic human right that cannot be taken away by the US president and Israeli prime minister.

Fr Majdi al-Siryani, legal adviser to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, was speaking last week, before the assassination of Hamaas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi on Sunday morning Australian time.

He said the right of return "is not something you can give and take away".

"This is a basic human right, and I don't need anybody to recognise it," he said. The right of return is "not only a communal thing but also a right on the individual level."

At a press conference in Washington on Wednesday, President George Bush surprised many by backing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal that Palestinian refugees should aim to be relocated inside a negotiated Palestinian state and should not return to the lands their families fled in 1948, when Israel was established as a Jewish state.

Fr al-Siryani noted that the Palestinian right of return has been recognised in two UN resolutions. "It is not for (Bush) to decide," Fr al-Siryani said.

Meanwhile Pope John Paul II condemned the killing in the speech before yesterday's Regina Caeli prayer, which substitutes the Angelus during the Easter period.

"We must stop shedding the blood of our fellow men. Such inhuman actions go against God's will," he said.

The assassination has drawn widespread condemnation from many political leaders across the world, including British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. However Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told Channel 7's Sunday Sunrise program yesterday that he is "very concerned" but does not condemn the assassination.

Jerusalem, Vatican church officials criticize Bush backing of Sharon (Catholic News Service 16/4/04)

Holy Land: Fr. Carballo: Peace and Justice Plan for Mid East (Vidimus Dominum 17/4/04)
"Stop bloodshed of your fellow men!", says Pope ( 18/4/04)
Middle East Peace Requires New U.S. Steps (US Conference of Catholic Bishops 14/4/04)
Fury as Gaza buries Hamas leader (BBC 18/4/04)
US churches fear outcome of Bush Middle East policy (Independent Catholic News 16/4/04)
Bishop Gregory urges Bush to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace process (Catholic News Service 15/4/04)
Interview: Foreign Minister Alexander Downer (Sunday Sunrise 19/4/04)

19 Apr 2004