Source AP ©

Muslim mayors admire Jerusalem

Two Muslim mayors attended the annual Jerusalem mayors' conference. After prayer at Jerusalem's main holy site they impel Muslims to visit the holy city.

Al Haji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Adam Kimbisa, from Kampala, Uganda, prayed at the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque on Sunday and said if every Muslim could see Jerusalem, their perception of Jewish control of the city would change.

"If people could visit each other frequently, these artificial barriers can be broken very easily," said Sebaggala. "Here I prayed, I walked freely, nobody was harassing me, and I felt very good. Seeing is believing."

The two Muslim shrines are built atop the ruins of the biblical Jewish temples inside the walled Old City, and the site is one of the most hotly contested in the world. Both Israel and the Palestinians demand sovereignty over the site, a dispute that has helped scuttle years of peace efforts.

Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 war, and Muslims often complain bitterly about Israeli rule there. Israel turned daily administration of the disputed site over to the Muslim Religious Council shortly after taking control of the site.

The two mayors concluded, however, that Muslims have nothing to worry about and should flock to Jerusalem.

Praying in the Old City Sunday morning, Sebaggala and Kimbisa said they completed the trio of main Muslim holy sites after visiting Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia within the past week.

Neither Tanzania or Uganda are predominantly Muslim. Israel has diplomatic relations with both countries, though it has ties with only a handful of Muslim states.

The 25th annual Jerusalem mayors conference brought 40 mayors from 30 countries to Israel for four days. Six mayors from the United States are attending.

During the week the mayors will tour Jerusalem, attend forums discussing the business of how to run a city and meet with several leaders, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

"It will be amazing to discover how much we have in common despite the fact our appearance, our language, our cultures differ so much from one another," Jerusalem Mayor Lupolianski said in a speech that opened the event on Sunday.

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