The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Tom Wright, told a British newspaper on Monday he was deeply concerned by Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people and called on the Sharon government to work harder to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

"I'm not anti-Israel," he told the Independent. 

"But when I see what's been done to the Palestinians over the past 50 years, I say, 'Well I'm sorry, but if you put people behind barbed wire, keep them caged, take their land despite international resolutions, and bulldoze their homes, you are asking for trouble'. 

"This is not in any way to excuse or exonerate the horror and enormity of suicide bombing. It is just to say that if you squeeze people that tight sooner or later they'll do drastic things.

"There must be better ways to achieve peace than the road taken by the government of Ariel Sharon." Wright was reported as saying. 

Lack of leadership

Earlier in the week, two British church leaders blasted Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday for going to war in Iraq, with one bishop saying he and US President George Bush had acted like "a bunch of white vigilantes".

UN says half a million Palestinians
are dependent on food aid

The Archbishop of York, David Hope, who is the Church of England's second most senior churchman, said Blair had displayed "a real lack of listening" over Iraq and his claims of fallen dictator Saddam Hussein's arms capability remained unproven.

"Undoubtedly a very wicked leader has been removed,
but there are wicked leaders in other parts of the world," he added in an interview with The Times newspaper.

Hope urged British churchgoers to pray for Blair and said he and Bush should remember they would one day answer to God. "I want to say that there is a higher authority before whom one day we all have to give an account," he said.

The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, was scathing about Blair's military alliance with Bush in Iraq. He likened them to a pair of mavericks fighting crime in multi-racial inner-city London.

"For Bush and Blair to go into Iraq together was like a bunch of white vigilantes going into Brixton to stop drug-dealing. This is not to deny there's a problem to be sorted, just that they are not credible people to deal with it," he told a newspaper.