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After decades of debate, Turkey starts building mosque in Istanbul square

By Melih Aslan and Osman Orsal

ISTANBUL, Feb 17 (Reuters) Construction began today of a mosque in Istanbul's central Taksim square, a controversial project championed by Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan but mired in years of court battles and public debate.
Cranes moved into the site and first cement was poured at a modest ground-breaking ceremony on the edge of the square, long a rallying point for demonstrations, as riot police with armoured vehicles and water cannon stood guard.
The square was at the heart of large anti-government protests in June 2013, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest a plan to build a replica Ottoman barracks on the adjoining Gezi park.
Plans for a mosque at Taksim have been discussed for decades, with supporters arguing there are not enough Muslim places of worship close to one of the city's busiest hubs.
"As someone who spent his life in Taksim, I have always felt the lack of a mosque here," Ahmet Misbah Demircan, mayor of the surrounding Beyoglu district, said at the ceremony. "I know that all Muslims who live in or come to Beyoglu share this feeling."
Erdogan, himself a devout Muslim who served as mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, has long argued for a mosque at Taksim.
But opponents see the project as an attempt to stamp a more religious identity on a square that includes a monument to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular republic.
They have long accused Erdogan and Turkey's mildly Islamist ruling AK Party of trying to roll back Ataturk's legacy, a charge they deny.
Some residents of Taksim suggested the timing of the construction might be meant to rally Erdogan's supporters ahead of an April referendum on boosting his powers.
"The timing of this is deliberate and I don't find that very ethical," said one resident, Dincer, declining to give his family name for fear of publicly criticising Erdogan.
The cost of the project has not been disclosed. Demircan was quoted as saying by Haberturk newspaper that it was going to be funded by a private construction company.
REUTERS CJ PM2056
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Kimono set to represent 196 nations at Tokyo Games

Kimono set to represent 196 nations at Tokyo Games

20 Apr 2018 | 7:21 PM

Tokyo, Apr 20 (UNI) A project is under way to create kimono illustrating the culture of each of 196 countries including Japan, aiming to showcase them at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, a Jiji Press report has said.

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20 Apr 2018 | 4:42 PM

MPs from the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Left parties
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Communist Party of India
(CPI), the Samajwadi Party (SP), and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
signed the notice calling for the impeachment.

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UK apologises for torn India flag in anti-Modi protests

UK apologises for torn India flag in anti-Modi protests

20 Apr 2018 | 4:30 PM

London, Apr 20 (UNI) The UK has apologised after the Indian flag in London's Parliament Square was torn down amid protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit.

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Kathmandu airport closed after jet skids off runway

20 Apr 2018 | 4:04 PM

Kathmandu, Apr 20 (UNI) Kathmandu airport was closed Friday after a Malaysian jet with 139 people on board aborted its takeoff and skidded off the runway, officials said.

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China challenges Aus warships in South China Sea

20 Apr 2018 | 3:58 PM

Canberra, Apr 20 (UNI) Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asserted the right of the Australian navy to travel the South China Sea, after local media reported three Australian warships were challenged by the Chinese navy earlier this month.

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