Palestinians declare Jerusalem as capital


The Palestinian parliament has ratified a law designating Jerusalem as the future Palestinian capital in response to US moves to recognise the ancient city as Israeli.

The assembly also agreed to give the Palestinian leader an extra month to name a new cabinet after the assembly last month rejected a previous reshuffle.

Mr Arafat announced yesterday he was signing into law a nearly two-year-old bill making Jerusalem the Palestinian capital in response to a new US law effectively recognizing the city as Israel's capital.

The Palestinian leader said the new law was in accordance with UN resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from lands occupied after the 1967 Middle East war, in which east Jerusalem was captured and unilaterally annexed.

The US move has caused a furore across the Arab and Muslim worlds, which already see the Bush administration as pro-Israeli.

Parliament speaker Mr Ahmed Qorei read out a tough condemnation of the US law in which Congress called for the US embassy in Israel to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. US President George W Bush signed the provision last week as part of a larger spending package.

"This runs against the Palestinians' national rights. It is also a slap in the face for Arab, Muslim and Christian countries," Mr Qorei said at the opening of the session.

"This dangerous US step comes at a time when war is being prepared against Iraq and its people. It is as if the Jerusalem issue and Iraq are part of a pattern aimed at remaking the map of the Middle East at the expense of the Palestinian people's legitimate rights," he said.

Most countries moved their embassies to Tel Aviv after Israel captured and then unilaterally annexed Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, not wanting to add weight to the sensitive debate over the city, claimed by both sides as their capital.

Despite the new law, the United States insists the status of the city should be resolved in talks between the two sides.