Barack Obama has backtracked over his support for plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero.
The U.S. President was hit by a furious
backlash from victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks after he backed the
highly controversial plans in a speech on Friday.
The proposed site for the 13-storey building is close to where almost 3,000 people died nine years ago after Muslim hijackers flew two jet airliners into the World Trade Center.
President Barack Obama speaks in favour of the right to build a mosque close to Ground Zero at a White House dinner to mark the start of the Ramadan fast
Mr Obama expressed his support for the mosque,
which will replace a building damaged by the attacks, at a White House meal
In his speech on Friday, Mr Obama said: ‘Let me be clear: As a citizen and as President I believe that Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as everyone else in this country.
‘That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.’
But the next day he insisted he had not been commenting on the 'wisdom' of placing a mosque in such a symbolic place.
Challenged about his comments during a family trip to Florida at the weekend, the President said: 'I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there.
'I was commenting very specifically on the
right that people have that dates back to our founding.