Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon fired a fresh broadside at the Pope following the pontiff's criticism of Israel's West Bank barrier and his plea for Sharon to build bridges with the Palestinians. Speaking last night at the end of his three day visit to Rome Sharon said: "Rome is full of walls, like Jerusalem, and the Vatican is surrounded by high walls." He added: "Israel's is a cement wall only nine kilometres long, which is to protect a highway from killers who shoot at motorists at will. Apart from that it's a defensive barrier which has nothing to do with a border and which helps to keep terrorists out." Sharon continued: "I met him and understand his alarm about the effects of the barrier on the churches and on the mobility of ecclesiastic personnel, and naturally I am personally committed to guaranteeing that no problems will arise." Sharon's parting shot at the Pope's intervention followed earlier comments from Israeli government aides who said Israel couldn't "build bridges over dead bodies". During his traditional Angelus address on Sunday, Pope John Paul criticized the barrier, saying the Middle East "does not need walls but bridges" and adding it posed "a new obstacle" to peace.
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