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Giuliani: Proposed Islamic center near WTC should move

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined a growing number of politicians yesterday supporting a move of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero to state-owned land farther from the Sept. 11 attack site.

"If you are a healer, you do not go forward with this project," Giuliani, mayor during 9/11 and its aftermath, told NBC's "Today" show, referring to the center's leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. "If you are a warrior, you do."

Developers want to build the $100-million community center, including a mosque, at a building two blocks north from where extremists brought down the World Trade Center in 2001. Prayer services have been held at the nearby building since it was purchased on behalf of the Park51 project last year.

Meanwhile, Gov. David A. Paterson said support's growing for a possible land swap to provide an alternate site. "One of the problems the cultural center is going to have is just a constant point of antagonism, which I don't think is what they want," he told WOR Radio yesterday.

Paterson said he had the support of Islamic clergy, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Giuliani. The governor and state officials refused to say what site would be suitable or where the state owns nearby land.

Paterson said he expects to meet the developers in a couple of days to convince them that a move could best assuage the "national hysteria" that has followed the project.

Sharif el-Gamal, Park51's developer, and The Cordoba Initiative, an organization that hopes to operate the community center, didn't return telephone and e-mail messages yesterday.

The project has caused a political uproar, pitting national Republicans against President Barack Obama and dividing Sept. 11 families and New Yorkers.

Foes argue the proposed mosque is offensive because it's too close to where terrorists killed more than 2,700 people in 2001. Supporters led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg say the center's right to religious freedom should be protected.

"I haven't changed my views. This is about the First Amendment," he said. "It's about people being able to pray to whomever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. That's one of the fundamental tenets of our society."

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