NEWS

Mayoral candidates clash over Athens mosque plans

SYRIZA's official candidate for the position of Athens mayor on Thursday accused his New Democracy rival of espousing an ultra-nationalist agenda.

“[Aris] Spiliotopoulos is running on a LAOS 2012 platform,” said Gavriil Sakellaridis in reference to the small nationalist party led by Giorgos Karatzaferis which used to be the most right-wing in Greek Parliament before the rise of Golden Dawn.

On Wednesday, Spiliotopoulos repeated his call for a city-wide referendum on the construction of a mosque in Athens. In an interview with Skai TV, Spiliotopoulos, a former education and tourism minister, slammed plans to build a Muslim place of worship at the heart of Athens saying that the capital does not need “another pole for illegal immigration.”

After numerous delays, the government has agreed to build a mosque at the site of a former naval base in Votanikos, near central Athens. The contract for the mosque’s construction was last year awarded to a consortium comprising the firms J&P Avax, Terna, Aktor and Intrakat. Construction was expected to begin this year.

On Thursday, Sakellaridis said that Spiliotopoulos was acting as if issues that have already been decided by his own New Democracy party were still open.

The leftist candidate also doused concerns that a mosque would become a magnet for undocumented immigrants. An official place of worship, Sakellaridis said, would reduce the number of makeshift mosques across the capital.

“We are not the only ones saying this, the Archbishop himself has spoken of people's need to practice their religious duties,” Sakellaridis said.

More than one hundred non-official places of worship are currently operating across the capital.

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