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Jerusalem church denies land sale
The head of Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Church has denied any role in selling church land to Jewish investors.
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2005 23:27 GMT
Reports of sale of church land enraged Palestinians
The head of Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Church has denied any role in selling church land to Jewish investors.

Patriarch Irineos I made the comments after talks with officials in Jordan, currently the custodian of the Jerusalem Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Jorda had come under pressure to investigate the reported land sales.
   
"I can say that these allegations are lies. I would like to confirm that I did not carry out any property deal and I confirm that even if such a thing took place through fraud or any other manner then we will coordinate with the legal consultants to annul these illegal measures," Patriarch Irineos said.

Angry Palestinians

Newspaper reports that church land in the Holy City had been illegally sold to Jews have angered Palestinians. They see such deals as attempts by Israel to gain control of property in Arab East Jerusalem, which they want as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Irenios (R) says he will seek to
have the land sales annulled 

Jordanian Interior Minister  Samir Habasha said after the talks in Amman that a joint legal committee had been set up that would "work to cancel any sale or lease whether it is through any court or through easier legal methods".

The Patriarch, who has blamed the scandal on rivals intent on ousting him, pledged to produce legal documents to assist the work of the committee.

Jordan approves the appointment of the head of the Jerusalem Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church under a 1958 law that gives it wide powers over elections of the church's top clergy. 

Treaty
   
Amman extracted a concession from Israel under a 1994 peace treaty that maintains its role as custodian of Muslim and Christian shrines even after it lost the West Bank and East
Jerusalem to Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

"I would like to confirm that I did not carry out any property deal and I confirm that even if such a thing took place through fraud or any other manner then we will coordinate with the legal consultants to annul these illegal measures"

Patriarch Irineos I

Jordan's Christian Palestinians outnumber their co-religionists in the West Bank and Gaza. Like many of their Muslim compatriots their families settled after successive Arab-Israeli wars.
   
The Greek Orthodox Church is a significant landholder in Jerusalem owning thousands of acres of property. The church is led by Greek clerics rather than Palestinians, unlike most of
the churches that have recently appointed Arab patriarchs.

Source:
Agencies
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