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Clinton's tour of holy city scrapped

What President Clinton wanted to see in Jerusalem was what every visitor wants to see _ the walled Old City, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, the Western Wall of Judaism's Second Temple, Al Aqsa Mosque.

But even before he set foot in Jerusalem, Clinton ran into the most sensitive issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict _ the future of the city and its religious shrines _ and in the end he canceled the walking tour his staff had planned.

The president instead dispatched Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest. Amid elaborate security precautions _ the virtual clearing of all the men and women who had been praying at the wall, a check of its numerous chinks and holes and a cordon of hundreds of police _ Mrs. Clinton went to the wall for about 15 minutes Thursday evening and prayed there briefly.

Israelis, who describe Jerusalem as "the united and eternal capital of the Jewish people and state of Israel," objected strongly to Clinton's request that Mayor Ehud Olmert not accompany him on the planned excursion, lest that act signify U.S. acceptance of the Israeli claim _ as Olmert said it would.

Palestinians, who envision Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state, said they would close the doors of Al Aqsa to Clinton if he were accompanied by Olmert, an opponent of Israel's accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization on Palestinian self-government.

When Clinton decided that problem was just too difficult to resolve and canceled the tour, anxious U.S. and Israeli security personnel rejoiced.

Clinton, too, may have been relieved. "I'm on my last leg _ I'm really tired," he said.

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