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U.S. funds religious-economic peace plan

The U.S. government will fund a new initiative that will examine bringing peace to the Middle East through faith and economics. “In the Middle East, religion plays such an important role in people’s lives,” U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who initiated the plan and obtained funding for it from the U.S. Agency for International Development, said Thursday.”If you’re Jewish, you have the Western Wall. If you’re Christian, you have the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. If you’re Muslim, you have the Dome of the Rock,” he said. “We cannot work toward peace in the Middle East without taking into account the religious roots of its people. The U.S. government doesn’t have the capacity to deal with this reality in the lives of those who live in that region. That is why I have put together an initiative that includes the faith component.” Tony Hall, formerly a Democratic congressman from Ohio and ambassador to the United Nations’ food program, will head the faith component; Dennis Ross, the former top U.S. Middle East peace broker, will head the economic component. The program will be run under the auspices of a think tank, the Center for the Study of the Presidency. Wolf initiated the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission whose recommendations last year regarding the Iraq war helped spur the Bush administration to consider talks with Iran and Syria.