US architect withdraws from Jerusalem museum project

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The Independent Online

Leading US architect Frank O. Gehry has announced he is withdrawing from the Museum of Tolerance project in Jerusalem which detractors say is being built over an ancient Muslim graveyard, the Haaretz newspaper said on Friday.

The newspaper said he stepped down over planning and financial disagreements for the museum which is being built by the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

Israel's Supreme Court initially halted construction but gave the green light after rejecting appeals in October 2008 by two Muslim organisations which complained that the museum would be built over part of an ancient Muslim cemetery.

In their decision, the justices pointed out no objections had been lodged in 1960 when the municipality put a parking lot over part of the graveyard.

But Haaretz reported that Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch decided on Thursday to cancel plans to set up court buildings in the area.

The newspaper did not say whether Gehry's decision and that by Beinisch were linked to the controversy over the ancient graveyard.