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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 15:55 GMT
Mayor justifies cleric's welcome
Mayor Ken Livingstone and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
Mr Livingstone embraced the cleric at City Hall in July
Ken Livingstone has justified his decision to welcome a controversial Muslim cleric to London last year.

Egyptian-born Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has been criticised for condoning suicide bombings and having anti-Semitic and homophobic views.

The Mayor of London acknowledged that he and the cleric would not see eye-to-eye on Lesbian and Gay views.

But he said engaging with Dr Qaradawi would help enhance relations between the West and the Muslim religion.

Mr Livingstone told a press conference on Tuesday: "When you get a progressive figure who is moving that religion in the correct direction you engage and you develop it.

'Engage with cleric'

"And I don't agree with the position of Dr Qaradawi on lesbian and gay rights.

"As I said before we won't be seeing him on the next Pride march but here is the force that we need to engage with if we are to actually get a dialogue between the west and the Muslim world."

Mr Livingstone caused controversy when he embraced the cleric at a meeting in City Hall in July.

Leader of the London Assembly Conservatives Bob Neill condemned Mr Livingstone's support for the cleric.

He said: "He is the type of man Mr Livingstone should, like us, be condemning not cosying up to. It's utterly unacceptable."

Mayor may face quiz over cleric
11 Nov 04 |  London
Livingstone invites cleric back
12 Jul 04 |  Politics

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