NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) – The imam of the so-called ground zero mosque started his government sponsored tour of the Middle East on Thursday as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani became the latest to suggest a location switch.
CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports Democrat David Paterson and Republican Giuliani have rarely agreed on much, but they have found common ground when it comes to the mosque.
“I think Gov. Paterson had the best approach here. Nice compromise, find another place,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani, who led New York City through 9/11, challenged the mosque’s imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, to think seriously about a site switch.
“If he is truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing. This project is divisive. This project is creating tremendous pain to people who have already paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Giuliani said.
But while Gov. Paterson said he began preliminary talks with one of the mosque planners on Wednesday, it is clear that no serious talks can begin until the imam returns from his $16,000 State Department-sponsored trip to the Middle East. Critics are worried the imam will try to fundraise there now. The State Department has said he can’t.
“Every indication from the attorney general’s report is that they have $180,000. It’s a $100 million project and then where is that money coming from?” Giuliani said.
Paterson said that he will try to convince mosque developer Sharif el-Gamal and others that moving the mosque in some kind of land swap with another developer in the area will be historic.
“What we would like to do is promote some ethnic and cultural understanding even before the first brick of the building is laid,” Paterson said.
The governor also deflected concerns about giving the mosque state land.
“Not-for-profits that are run by churches receive state resources all the time,” the governor said.
Right now the imam is in Bahrain and he will move on to other Middle East destinations over the next two weeks. This is his fourth U.S. government-sponsored trip to the area. He went twice during the Bush administration, and he made another trip earlier this year.