Grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar cancels meeting with US Vice-President Mike Pence

Pence watches US President Donald Trump speaking at the White House, Dec 7, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

CAIRO (AFP) - Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb cancelled a meeting with US Vice-President Mike Pence after President Donald Trump's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Al-Azhar said on Friday (Dec 8).

In a statement, Al-Azhar, Egypt's highest Sunni institution, said Tayeb had reversed his previous decision to meet Pence, who is due to travel to Egypt and Israel in the second half of December.

Tayeb announced "his categorical rejection of a formal request from US Vice President Mike Pence to meet with him on Dec 20", Al-Azhar said.

The US embassy had submitted an official request a week ago, "and the grand imam had agreed to this, but after the unjust and unfair American decision on Jerusalem, Al-Azhar's grand imam announces his strong and decisive rejection of this meeting".

"Al-Azhar cannot sit with those who falsify history and steal the rights of people," the statement said.

"How can I sit with those who gave what they do not own to those who are undeserving?" the statement quoted Tayeb as asking.

"The US president must immediately reverse this decision."

Trump's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel sparked Palestinian protests, sporadic clashes and a call for a new intifada or uprising amid fears of new bloodshed in the region.

After Friday prayers, Tayeb directed "an urgent call to the people of Jerusalem: 'Let your third intifada be on the level of your belief in your cause and your love for your country. We are with you and will not let you down'," the statement said.

Tayeb holds Trump and his administration "fully responsible for igniting the flame of hatred in the hearts of Muslims... and the consequences of spreading hatred," Al-Azhar said.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party, has said Pence was "not welcome in Palestine" during his upcoming visit, and signalled that Abbas would not meet him.

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