JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Iranian flight attendant who hijacked a passenger plane to Israel last week formally asked for asylum Wednesday, declaring his love for the Jewish people in a petition to an Israeli court.

Reza Jabari, 29, is considering converting to Judaism and wants to find an Israeli wife, said his attorney, Shmuel Saadya.

In a petition filed Wednesday in magistrate's court in the southern city of Beersheba, Jabari, a Muslim, argued he ``never had the opportunity'' to freely choose his religion and was now questioning it.

Judaism is not a condition for asylum in Israel, but Jews enjoy the automatic right to citizenship.

The Justice Ministry would not comment on the request. But a Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the petition was complicated by the fact that Jabari may have to face criminal charges from the Sept. 19 hijacking.

Iran, meanwhile, is seeking Jabari's extradition.

Jabari hijacked an airliner carrying 174 passengers and crew from Tehran to the Iranian resort island of Kish, forcing the pilot at gunpoint to fly to Israel.

He surrendered to Israeli authorities soon after the plane was allowed to land at Ovda, an air base in southern Israel. The plane and its passengers returned to Iran on Wednesday night.

There were initial reports that Jabari wanted asylum in the United States or Britain. But an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those countries ruled out the possibility.

Jabari has said he wanted to alert the world to the oppression of the Iranian people under the Islamic regime in Tehran.