May 13, 2007 / 8:28 PM / 12 years ago

Israel's Olmert says seeks to expand Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, May 13 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday he would seek to expand the borders of Jerusalem and that he hoped for eventual world acceptance of Israeli rule in the disputed city.

At a ceremony marking the anniversary of Israel’s capture and annexation in 1967 of the city’s eastern sector which Palestinians seek as a capital for a future state, Olmert said:

"The past 40 years are only the beginning. I believe, hope and pray that we will continue to work together to strengthen Jerusalem, to expand its borders, to cultivate its foundations, to build its neighbourhoods."

In his remarks at the Western Wall remnant of an ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem, Olmert said Israel hoped to achieve world acceptance of its rule in the city, by respecting its holiness to three faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

"If we do this with wisdom and caution, we will preserve this city always under our sovereignty, complete and united and accepted by the entire world. This is our goal," Olmert said.

About 200,000 Israelis have moved into neighbourhoods Israel has built in Arab East Jerusalem since annexing the area after a 1967 Middle East War and making it a part of its capital, in a move not recognised internationally.

The city is also home to some 230,000 Palestinians, most of whom live separately from Israelis.

Israel said last week it had plans to build another 20,000 housing units for Israelis in east Jerusalem, a bid some Palestinian officials condemned as an obstacle to U.S.-backed efforts to revive peace talks long stalled by violence.

A recently revived Arab peace plan Olmert has said he views positively offers Israel normal relations with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from lands the Jewish state captured in the 1967 War, including east Jerusalem.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry earlier expressed regret some European diplomats had declined invitations to attend a gala parliament session planned for Monday to mark the anniversary of East Jerusalem’s capture by the Jewish state.

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