Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov asked the Vatican to cancel a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Ghanaim scheduled to take place before the pope's visit to Israel next month, the minister's media advisor Amnon Lieberman reported.
The advisor's statement read that "the planned meeting between the pope and Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Ghanaim is in complete contradiction with the purpose of the pope's visit, that is a state-religious visit meant to promote peace and dialogue between the peoples and religions."
The advisor said the request was sent to the relevant bodies by Israel's ambassador in the Vatican City.
Misezhnikov was quoted in the statement as saying, "This is a terror supporter and warmonger that acts against the national interests of the state in which he serves as mayor, and I call on the Holy See to abstain from meeting with him."
The tourism minister heads the inter-ministerial team in charge of making preparations for the pope's visit to Israel next month, and on Wednesday is scheduled to meet with Vatican representatives visiting Israel in preparation for the pope's arrival.
In response to the tourism minister's statement, Ghanaim told Ynet, "It seems the minister has forgotten that elections are behind us and he doesn't have to recruit another mandate or two anymore.
"This is not the first time that he or the foreign minister speak out against me. It's a shame that an irresponsible minister in the State of Israel speaks out in such a manner."
The mayor also said that he has received hundreds of phone calls from Jews and Arabs expressing their support of him and their shock with the minister's words.
In response to the report, Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said Misezhnikov's statement was "incitement from the Yisrael Beiteinu camp against a mayor that was elected democratically."
Tibi added that "the Vatican and the international community should isolate the fascist Jewish party's representative".
Ahiya Raved contributed to this report