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Bush rebuffs Congress on Jerusalem

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush signed a State Department spending bill Monday but said his administration was not legally bound to follow a provision in it that requires the United States to identify Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed," Bush said in a statement after signing the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which gives the State Department more than $4 billion for its programs across the globe.

Congress has repeatedly urged successive administrations to consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

This year's requirements, however, went beyond previous calls by adding others that affect how the United States views Jerusalem -- and which could inflame tensions with Arabs and Muslims.

Bush made clear his administration would not follow that part of the legislation, known as "Section 214," because it views it as nonbinding.

The resolution, Bush said, "would, if construed as mandatory rather than advisory, impermissibly interfere with the president's constitutional authority to formulate the position of the United States, speak for the nation in international affairs, and determine the terms on which recognition is given to foreign states."

In essence, Bush signed the legislation to obtain the funds for the State Department, while blasting what he called a congressional overreach on the Jerusalem issue.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said that White House lawyers read the provision as an "advisory not mandatory."

He and other senior officials said the administration maintains that Jerusalem is a "permanent status issue" that has to be resolved between Palestinians and Israelis.

The State Department bill requires all federal documents listing countries and their capitals to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Further, American citizens born in Jerusalem can demand that U.S. government-issued documents, such as passports and birth certificates, identify Israel as their birthplace.

And the bill prohibits the administration from spending money on the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which deals mostly with Palestinian issues, until the post is under the supervision of the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Currently, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem reports directly to the State Department.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration stands by existing U.S. policy.

"We have always opposed legislative action that hinders the president's prerogatives on advancing our interests in the region and promoting a just and lasting peace," Boucher said, adding the "the State Department made consistently clear that it was opposed to those provisions."

CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and State Department Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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