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SIMFEROPOL -- The Crimean Tatar Medjlis has expressed support for the Simferopol city council's decision to allow a mosque to be built in the Ukrainian peninsula's capital, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Ali Khamzin, the director of the Medjlis's department for international relations, said on February 18 the decision by the city council "is a positive decision from those who have, in fact, been our enemies."

The Medjlis is the ruling body of the Crimean Tatars.

The Simferopol mosque has been a point of contention since 2004, when the Simferopol city council first gave the Crimean Tatars permission to build the mosque on a plot of land leased for 25 years, only to ban construction soon after.

The Crimean Tatar community has been engaged in various lawsuits regarding the mosque issue, and has won all of the cases. The decision by the city council on February 16 grants the Tatar community ownership of the land in perpetuity.

The decision was strongly supported by the new prime minister of Crimea, Vasyl Dzharty. He told RFE/RL he was confident the necessary paperwork would be done quickly and the next Simferopol city council session will grant the Tatars permission to begin construction.

The Tatars were previously denied various zoning, sanitary, and water department approvals for the construction of the mosque, despite the fact that the other buildings had been erected near the site designated for the mosque.

But in becoming de facto owners of the land, Dzharty said the necessary approvals will be granted much faster, a process that he has guaranteed to expedite.

(Ukrainian Service/ic/pmb)
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