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Israeli Arab Muslim cleric Sheik Ra'ad Salah declared that Jerusalem will soon become the capital of an Islamic nation at a rally in the northern town of Umm al-Fahm, Israel Radio reported on Friday.

The leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement Salah, told a crowd of 50,000 gatherers that Israel's occupation of the Temple Mount was nearing its end.

He then said comatose former-prime minister Ariel Sharon and President Moshe Katsav, who is currently under investigation for alleged sex crimes, were "paying the price" for damaging Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque.

Salah also responded to Pope Benedict XVI's remarks on Mohammed, saying he hoped they were an accidental slip of tongue.

On the issue of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Salah urged Hamas not to agree to a prisoner exchange with the Israeli government which will not include the release of jailed Israeli Arabs.

Salah and three other Islamic Movement officials were held by police in detention for 21 months under suspicion of contacting militant Palestinian groups.