Vilnius, Sept 18--(AFP) The Lithuanian government on Wednesday said it had approved a plan to restore the capital's Jewish quarter, including a plan to rebuild the synagogue, Europe's largest Jewish temple before World War II.

The government's information office said the reconstruction of the first of of three city blocks of the former Jewish quarter, once a key center of Yiddish culture in eastern Europe, could begin this year.

Under the project, which is to be prepared by October 10, the reconstruction of the first of the three blocks is due to be completed by the end of 2003, while the last block would be rebuilt between 2005-2008. The plans include possibly rebuilding the Vilnius synagogue, which was damaged during World War II before the Soviets razed it to ground in 1954 to build a school there.

The government did not detail the cost of the project, but said that the first stage of the project is to be financed by Vilnius municipality and that private investment will be called on to fund further restorations.

About 95 percent of Lithuania's 220,000 strong Jewish pre-war community perished during the Holocaust. Many of the deceased passed through the Vilnius ghetto, which was set up in the centre of the capital.

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