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Russian Offers $10M for NYC Islamic Center Site

The site of a proposed mosque near Ground Zero has launched a heated debate about whether the mosque is appropriate.
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Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Russian president the world chess federation and also the president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia is offering $10 million to purchase the site of the controversial Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, reports ABC News.

Ilyumzhinov announced at a press conference in Moscow Thursday that he has sent letters to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and Hisham Elzanaty, an investor in the Park51 site, on behalf of the World Chess Federation with their offer.

"I believe that international conflicts are extremely dangerous in complex times such as ours," Ilyumzhinov wrote in the letter to Bloomberg, according the report. "As the president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and as a person who has always supported interreligious understanding, I propose the construction of an International Chess Center at the suggested site of the mosque."

Donald Trump previously made an offer on the site. In a letter released Sept. 9 by Trump's publicist, the real estate investor told Elzanaty that he would buy his stake in the lower Manhattan building for 25 percent more than whatever Elzanaty paid.

Ilyumzhinov's offer of $10 million is said to be higher than Trump's offer.

Trump also attached a condition to his offer: He said that as part of the deal, the backers of the project would need to promise that any new mosque they constructed would be at least five blocks farther away from the World Trade Center site.

Elzanaty declined the offer.

"This is just a cheap attempt to get publicity and get in the limelight," said Wolodymyr Starosolsky, a lawyer for the Elzanaty.

Neither Bloomberg or Elzanaty have responded to Ilyumzhinov's letter.

The site of the proposed Islamic cultural center has stirred global controversy, with families of 9/11 victims, the White House and various celebrities speaking out about the issue.

President Barack Obama, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick and writer Salman Rushdie says Muslims have the right to build an Islamic community center, while respected Muslim scholar Dr. Zuhdi Jasser and Fla. pastor Rev. Terry Jones, who threatened to burn 200 copies of the Quran, oppose it. Families of 9/11 victims are split on the issue.

While the proposed Islamic cultural center has divided many, Ilyumzhinov claims that an international chess center will unite the public.

"What I am proposing is not to divide people on the basis of religion and ethnicity, but to unite the public around such a great game as chess," he said.

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