| GEO Business|
| Pope calls for Palestinian homeland in West Bank|
| Updated at: 1332 PST, Wednesday, May 13, 2009|
BETHLEHEM: Pope Benedict XVI called on Wednesday for a Palestinian homeland and urged youths to resist temptation for "terrorism" in his first trip to the occupied West Bank.
"The Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbours, within internationally recognised borders," he said at the welcoming ceremony in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
The pope spoke after passing through an imposing checkpoint in Israel's controversial eight-metre-(25-foot-)high wall that surrounds a section of Bethlehem and forms part of a barrier that Israel says is essential to its security but which the Palestinians see as a symbol of an "apartheid" regime. The pope reiterated his call for peace to come to the land torn by decades of violence. "In particular I call on the international community to bring its influence to bear in favour of a solution."
Welcoming the 82-year-old pontiff, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas slammed the 42-year Israeli occupation and the severe restrictions on movement faced by his people in their lands. "In this holy land there are those who continue to build separation walls instead of bridges and who try to compel Muslims and Christians to leave the country," Abbas said.
"Your holiness is fully aware of the situation in Jerusalem which is surrounded by an apartheid wall which forbids our people in the West Bank from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Al-Aqsa mosque," Abbas said, referring to the main Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.