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In Meeting with German Chancellor, Jewish Leader Pushes Muslim Dialogue

Israel Singer wants Germany’s new chancellor to take the lead in fostering international dialogue with Muslims. In a private meeting Tuesday with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the chairman of the World Jewish Congress said recent Holocaust denial and anti-Israel statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad underscore the urgency of establishing dialogue with Muslim leaders around the world.

The Iranian leader is a “street gangster,” Singer told JTA after meeting with Merkel. “I have met Arabs from around the world, and they are embarrassed to hell by what people are doing to their religion. And Chancellor Merkel understands this fully.”

Singer said he presented the chancellor with his concept for an international “Dialogue of Religions” that he would like Germany to host.

A spokesman for Merkel told JTA that she was sympathetic to the idea but that it was too soon to talk about concrete steps. The conversation took place in “an excellent atmosphere,” the spokesman said.

Merkel is due to visit Israel next week and will speak with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the spokesman said.

Singer is on his way to Rome for a Jan. 26 meeting with the Vatican secretary of state. Relations with Iran are high on the agenda, said Singer, who also will be in Israel during Merkel’s visit.

The WJC leader, who has been pushing for a broad interfaith dialogue based on the Jewish-Catholic model, said he believes Germany should play a leading role, partly because of Berlin’s success in hosting the 2004 conference on anti-Semitism of the Organization for Safety and Cooperation in Europe.

“Germany has the most leverage, because of the history, because of economic relations with Iran and because of the credibility that” former Foreign Minister “Joschka Fischer built up in the Middle East,” Singer told JTA.

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