AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - A widespread religious war could erupt if Israeli claims persist over a disputed holy site in Jerusalem's Old City that both Muslims and Jews lay claim to, a Jordanian official for Jerusalem affairs said Friday.
The comments by Abdullah Kan'an, secretary-general of Jordan's Royal Committee for Jerusalem Affairs, follow recent Israeli reports of a stone tablet allegedly being found during renovations carried out by Muslim administrators of the mosque compound known to Muslims as the Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Israeli geologists have said that the stone bears Hebrew inscriptions detailing repair plans for the Jewish Temple of King Solomon that strongly resemble descriptions in the Bible's Book of Kings.
If proven, such evidence could strengthen Jewish claims to the long disputed holy site, which was the scene of violence in September 2000 that sparked the recent round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
Muslim clerics insist that no Jewish shrine ever stood at the site. That claim was made by Palestinian officials in failed negotiations with Israel in 2000 over who would be sovereign there.
Jewish tradition holds two biblical Temples were destroyed at the site by invading armies in 586 B.C. and 70 A.D.
Kan'an, from Jordan's Jerusalem affairs committee, said in a statement released Friday that ``Jewish gangs and extremist factions'' in Israel were using the claims of the discovered tablet to support their bid to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque - Islam's third holiest shrine that is located at the site - and rebuild ``what they call the third 'temple.'''
``If that happened, God forbid, a holy religious war will definitely inflame the whole region,'' Kan'an said.
The sandstone tablet has a 15-line inscription resembling descriptions in Kings II, 12:1-6, 11-17, said Israel's Geological Survey, which examined the artifact. The words refer to King Joash, who ruled the area 2,800 years ago.
In it, the king tells priests to take ``holy money ... to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labor to carry out the duty with faith.'' If the work on a new Jewish temple is completed well, ``the Lord will protect his people with blessing,'' reads the last sentence of the inscription.
A Jerusalem collector who has declined to come forward and his lawyer David Zailer would not say where the tablet was found or provide further details.
Biblical archaeologist Gabriel Barkai said the collector asked the Israel Museum to determine the inscription's authenticity and was told the museum's experts could not rule out a forgery. The Israel Museum declined comment then.
Adnan Husseini, the director of the Islamic Trust that administers the Jerusalem mosque compound, has denied that the tablet was found during renovation work there.
When Israel conquered east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, it permitted Muslim clergy to continue administering the hilltop area to avoid conflict with the Muslim world.