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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 13:58 GMT
Saudi offer to fix Delhi mosque
Jama Masjid mosque
The Jama Masjid can host more than 20,000 worshippers
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has offered to pay to repair India's largest mosque, Delhi's historic Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque).

A spokesman for India's foreign ministry confirmed the offer, which had earlier been made directly to the mosque's chief cleric.

The cleric, Ahmed Bukhari, said the 17th century structure was in urgent need of repair.

Media reports say the king also wants to fund education in India.

Concern

"I received the offer directly from the Saudi authorities but asked them to approach the government," Imam Bukhari told the BBC.

The mosque is classified as a historical monument and its maintenance is the responsibility of the Archaeological Survey of India, a government body responsible for the upkeep of historical sites and buildings.

We need millions of rupees for its restoration
Syed Ahmed Bukhari,
chief cleric

"We have received this offer and it will be examined in consultation with the concerned authority," foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

Imam Bukhari said the minarets of the 17th century mosque needed to be repaired.

"We also need to polish the tombs and repair other parts of the structure."

The Times of India newspaper said the Saudi king also wanted to fund education in India.

Both offers have raised concerns with Indian security agencies who are said to fear that the money could be used to preach radical Islam, the Times reported.

The Jama Masjid was built in 1656 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal.

The red sandstone and marble edifice has a grand courtyard which can hold more than 20,000 worshippers.

"We need millions of rupees for its restoration," the imam said.

King Abdullah is due to visit India this month and will be the chief guest at the country's Republic Day celebrations.



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