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Barack Obama defends Jerusalem remarks

world Updated: Jun 06, 2008 08:29 IST
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Democratic White House candidate Barack Obama has defended his remarks that Jerusalem should not be divided under any Israeli-Palestinian peace pact, saying a divided city would be "very difficult to execute."

A day after sparking outrage among Palestinians when he told a Jewish group that Jerusalem must remain the "undivided" capital of Israel, Obama on Thursday told a television channel that the issue is still up to the two sides.

"Obviously it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations."

However, he said, "My belief is that as a practical matter it would be very difficult to execute.

"And I think that it is smart for us to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in old Jerusalem."

But, he added, "Israel has a legitimate claim on that city."

On Wednesday Obama pledged to a meeting of the powerful Washington lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) his "unshakeable commitment to Israel's security" if he is elected president in November, and insisted that Jerusalem should stay an undivided Israeli city.

Leading Palestinians including president Mahmud Abbas condemned the remarks.

"Jerusalem is one of the files under negotiation. The entire world knows perfectly well that we will never accept a state without (east) Jerusalem (as its capital). That should be clear," Abbas said.