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Bloomberg regrets greeting controversial Muslim cleric

Michael Bloomberg readies for the 2009 election. (Oct.

Michael Bloomberg readies for the 2009 election. (Oct. 29, 2009) Credit: Andrew Hinderaker

An attempt by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reach out to the city's Muslim community proved a bit of an embarrassment for him Thursday.

Siraj Wahhaj of Brooklyn was among a group of Muslim clerics Bloomberg greeted and shook hands with at City Hall Wednesday.

Thursday, as it emerged that Wahhaj had been a character witness for a convicted terrorist more than a decade ago, Bloomberg admitted had he known of Wahhaj's background he wouldn't have greeted him.

But while regretting the episode, the mayor was adamant he would continue to reach out to all ethnic and religious groups in New York.

Wahhaj was a character witness for Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called "blind sheikh" from Egypt, convicted in a 1995 federal terror trial of plotting to bomb major landmarks in New York City. Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence.

Wahhaj wasn't charged in the case. He is affiliated with a large mosque in Brooklyn and couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

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