March 14, 2000

ROME ( - Jordan's King Abdullah told an Italian
Catholic magazine this week that he welcomed Pope John Paul
II's upcoming visit to the Holy Land next week and that he
hoped that one day Jerusalem could be the capital of both
Israel and a Palestinian state.

Abdullah told Famiglia Cristiana magazine, "The city must
remain the symbol of peace and hope for the whole region
and must not be the exclusive capital of one people at the
expense of the other." He added, "We believe that in
Jerusalem, there is room for two capitals of two
independent states. We believe that religion should not be
used as a division regarding the future status of the city,
but should have the function of uniting everyone in peace
and harmony."

The status of Jerusalem, which both Israel and Palestinians
claim as their respective capitals, remains a major sticking
point in Middle East peace negotiations. The Holy Father,
who will visit the Holy Land next week, is expected to
refrain from supporting one side or the other in the

Asked whether he feared that the Pope's pilgrimage could be
charged with political significance, Abdullah said: "I
believe that over and above the religious and spiritual
significance of the visit, there will be something more
which will make a lot of people talk -- something that
could be truly political in the sense that this visit will
also be a symbol of the comprehension that exists between
the followers of Islam and those of Christianity."