Protesters in US fail to block 9/11 mosque

A city commission has denied landmark status to a building near the World Trade Centre site, freeing a group to convert the property into an Islamic community centre and mosque that has drawn national opposition.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0, saying the 152-year-old building several blocks from the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks wasn't special or distinctive enough to qualify as a landmark. National and New York politicians and the Anti-Defamation League oppose plans for the mosque, saying it disrespects the memory of those killed in the 2001 attacks by adherents of radical Islam. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also chairs the foundation building the September 11 memorial, has defended plans for the mosque.

Several members of a crowd of 50 or 60 applauded, while others shouted "Shame!" as the commission chairman, Robert B Tierney, called for the vote. One opponent, Linda Rivera of Manhattan, held up a sign reading, "Don't glorify murders of 3,000. No 9/11 victory mosque."

Supporters of landmark status had argued that the building warranted the status because it was hit by debris during the attacks. But commissioner Christopher Moore noted that the debris hit a number of buildings.

The centre would be operated by a group called the Cordoba Initiative, which says the centre will be a space for moderate Muslim voices.