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Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in effort to resolve Ground Zero mosque row

The imam leading the effort to build an Islamic centre and mosque close to where the World Trade Centre once stood said yesterday that a resolution to the raging debate over its location was being examined.

"We are exploring all options as we speak right now, and we are working to what will be a solution, God willing, that will resolve this crisis, defuse it and not create any unforeseen or untoward circumstances that we do not want to see happen," Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations.

He did not elaborate on whether the options included moving the centre from a site two blocks from the scene of the 11 September attack on New York. But in response to a later question, Mr Rauf said the proposed location, while controversial, was important.

"This is an opportunity that we must capitalise on so the voice of moderate Muslims will have a megaphone," he said.

The imam said he wanted to clarify a "misperception" that the proposed site was sacred ground. "It is absolutely disingenuous as some have suggested that the block is hallowed ground," he said, noting its proximity to strip joints and betting parlours. Mr Rauf also raised the question of whether the project was worth the controversy. "The answer is a categorical yes," he said. "Why? Because this centre will be a place for all faiths to come together in mutual respect."