NEW YORK (AP) - Clergy representing many of the largest denominations in the country are urging U.S. leaders to once again put their vast influence behind a negotiated end to Mideast violence and make working for peace "an urgent priority."
In a statement set for release Thursday, the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East said that the U.S. did not fulfill its duty in pursuing the roadmap to a two-state solution in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
That stalled plan was backed by the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers -- the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.
"The unique role of the United States in the region and in the world gives our nation a special responsibility to pursue peace," the religious leaders said. "The United States must make peace in the Middle East an urgent priority."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Tuesday that tensions in the Middle East were "near the breaking point."
The clergy are pressing U.S. leaders to help bring about an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire and revive talks on a two-state solution; channel reconstruction aid to Lebanon; push for Israeli peace deals with Lebanon and Syria; and work for religious liberty in the region.
The interfaith group said the federal government's goal should be "a comprehensive peace that recognizes Israel and ensures security and peace for all the nations of the region."
Signers of the statement include the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the heads of the Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran and Presbyterian churches; top executives of the Union for Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America; and a national leader of the Islamic Society of North America.
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