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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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18 Jun 2018 | 6:51 PM

Rome, June 18 (UNI) India on Monday reaffirmed strong commitment to take bilateral relations with Italy to newer heights. "Reaffirming strong commitment to take our relationship forward! EAM Sushma Swaraj met with Foreign Minister of Italy Enzo Moavero Milanesi," MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

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No jail for Swiss Tamil Tiger financiers

No jail for Swiss Tamil Tiger financiers

18 Jun 2018 | 5:48 PM

Bern, June 18 (UNI) The Swiss Federal Criminal Court has given no prison terms to alleged financiers of the Sri Lankan Tamil separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), according to a Swissinfo report.

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Nawaz, daughter postpone return due to Kulsoom's health condition, sources say

Nawaz, daughter postpone return due to Kulsoom's health condition, sources say

18 Jun 2018 | 5:20 PM

Islamabad, Jun 18(UNI) Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has reportedly decided to postpone his return to Pakistan for some time following the worsening condition of his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who is currently undergoing treatment at a hospital in London
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Bill to axe GST on tampons passes Senate

18 Jun 2018 | 5:04 PM

Canberra, June 18 (UNI) Legislation to remove the $30 million GST from feminine hygiene products has passed the Senate, according to an SBS News report on Monday.

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New visa rules in UAE

New visa rules in UAE

18 Jun 2018 | 4:51 PM

Dubai, Jun 18(UNI) Cabinet in UAE has approved a number of visa facilitations for visitors, residents, families and people overstaying in UAE.

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