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A decision by the governmental committee on Jerusalem affairs to renew digging at the Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount may spark riots ahead of the Annapolis peace conference, Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle wrote Sunday in a letter to Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel.
In the letter, a copy of which was also sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Majadle, who is also in charge of the Antiquities Authority, appealed the September 25 decision.
"I was prevented from participating in this governmental committee due to a personal matter that could not be postponed," Majadle wrote, adding, "It is common knowledge that this issue is extremely important to me. I followed this matter closely even before I was appointed minister in charge of the Antiquities Authority."
"There was not one representative of the Muslim communityâ€¦at the committee," Majadle wrote, before warning of the possible volatility of renewing the dig.
"This is a matter of utmost sensitivity, and it is not in the government's interest to make critical decisions without first hearing [the opinions] of all of the relevant bodies," he wrote.
Two weeks ago, the governmental Committee on Jerusalem Affairs voted to resume archaeological work at the site, Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri, a committee member, told The Associated Press. Edery said the dig had been held up since early summer for bureaucratic reasons related to planning permits.
"I'm sorry the work was held up at all, because the walkway was supposed to be almost finished by now," Edery said. He said some aspects of the plan have been modified, but no major changes were made.
Dalit Menzil, a spokeswoman for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the agency was waiting for government orders to resume the dig. She said "preservation, documentation and stabilization" work has continued uninterrupted.
AP contributed to this report