JERUSALEM, Feb. 5 (AP) - The top Islamic official in Jerusalem has weighed in with harsh words for both candidates in the race for Israel's prime minister - and urged Muslims who are Israeli citizens not to vote for either one.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak faces hawkish Ariel Sharon at the polls on Tuesday in a contest that Sharon is heavily favored to win.

Sheik Ikrema Sabri, who is the mufti, or chief Islamic cleric, said Sunday neither candidate deserved backing.

``Why support Barak? What has he done?'' Sabri said. ``I would love Sharon to win - to reveal to everyone what Zionism is all about.''

The votes of Israeli's more than 1 million Arab citizens - the vast majority of whom are Muslims - are considered crucial for Barak. On Sunday, Israel Radio reported that Sabri had said it was against Islam for a Muslim to vote for a Jew.

``I didn't say that, but I'm not afraid to say something like that,'' Sabri told The Associated Press later Sunday. ``I would say the same thing.''

He predicted Arab citizens of Israel would refuse to support Barak ``because he killed 13 without any reason'' - referring to the 13 Israeli Arabs shot by Israeli police as October rioting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip spilled over into Arab communities inside Israel.

Without the Arab vote, which makes up 18 percent of the electorate, Barak cannot win the election, analysts say.

The mufti also repeated his contention - inflammatory to Israelis - that Jews have no religious tie to the disputed hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City sacred to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Jews revere it as the site of their biblical Temples, the only remnant of which - the retaining wall known as the Western Wall - is the holiest place in Judaism.

``The claim of the Jews is an empty one,'' Sabri said at his home just outside Jerusalem.

The compound is central to the dispute between the two sides. Palestinians have day-to-day control of the hilltop, but want full sovereignty over it. Israel, which annexed the Old City and other parts of Jerusalem which it captured in 1967, has insisted it will not cede complete control of the mount to the Palestinians.

Underscoring the sensitivities, the 4-month-old outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence began after Sharon visited the compound - site of the Al Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest shrine - with a large contingent of riot police.

``If they (Israelis) want real peace they have to stay away from Al Aqsa,'' the mufti said. ``It's fire - it will burn whoever touches it.''

Sabri repeated past assertions that the Jews who arrived after Israel's founding - the vast majority of the country's population - should go back to their previous homes.

``They can all go back to where they came from,'' he said. ``Those that came from Russia can go back to Russia. Those that came from Romania can go back to Romania. Those that came from Arab countries can go back to the Arab countries they were living in.''

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