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Israel Closes East Jerusalem Office of University President

Israeli police closed a Palestinian office in east Jerusalem Friday, claiming it was being used by the Palestinian Authority to gain a foothold in the disputed city.

Police said the office belonged to Sari Nusseibeh, the PLO's top official in Jerusalem and president of Al Quds University.

Nusseibeh denied any involvement with the office, which he said houses the Jerusalem Cultural Association.

Police spokesman Gil Kleiman insisted it was Nusseibeh's office. "According to the information we have ... he is carrying on Palestinian Authority activities from that office," Kleiman said.

Israel says any Palestinian Authority activity within east Jerusalem is against interim peace agreements.

Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East War and annexed it in a move that was not recognized by most of the international community.

Israel closed Nusseibeh's university office on July 9, claiming it was being used as a front for the Palestinian Authority, only to reopen it on July 22 following criticism from the United States and dovish Israeli officials.

Nusseibeh, a high-profile Palestinian leader, is considered a moderate with good contacts in Israel. He has condemned Palestinian homicide bombings, and has advocated Palestinian compromise on key issues such as Palestinian refugees seeking to return to their homes in Israel.

Friday's closure appeared to be part of an Israeli response to a Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv the day before that killed six people and the bomber. Earlier Friday, Israeli troops besieged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah, demolishing structures within.

Nusseibeh described Friday's closure as a "hysterical" move by the Israeli government and said the organization was registered according to Israeli law.

Nusseibeh said he hoped that Palestinians would one day have their own municipality within the city, "but establishing a municipality now under the occupation is nothing but craziness."