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Egyptian FM assaulted in Jerusalem
( 2003-12-22 00:12) (Agencies)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher collapsed after being assaulted by a crowd of Palestinians as he was entering the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday, witnesses said.

Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, left, meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister Ahmed Maher in Sharon's office in Jerusalem Monday Dec 22, 2003.[AP]
Witnesses earlier said it appeared Maher had been physically beaten but later said he was accosted and jostled and possibly struck one or two times, causing him to fall to the ground.

"A group of Palestinian extremists started shouting at Maher and calling him a traitor and collaborator and then they were trying to reach him but guards (nearby) prevented them," a mosque guard who witnessed the incident old Reuters.

"And then he fell unconscious," the guard said.

Israel's ambulance service said Maher was in good condition after being being treated for shortness of breath by medics at the scene, but one member of his entourage was taken to hospital for treatment.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Maher, who had just completed talks on Middle East peace issues with Israeli leaders, was accosted while going into the mosque in the compound known as al Haram al Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews.

"We don't think he is seriously hurt. We don't know the nature of the attack but (it happened after) he and his entourage was surrounded by a huge crowd of Muslim worshippers...." the spokesman said.

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