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'Ground Zero Imam' Wraps Up Middle East Tour

The imam leading plans for an Islamic center near the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York has ended a U.S. government-funded trip to the Persian Gulf.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's visit to the region was aimed at promoting interfaith dialogue but became overshadowed by tensions in the United States surrounding the proposed "Ground Zero Mosque."

Speaking at a Ramadan function in Dubai Tuesday, Rauf said the debate about the proposed Islamic center has moved far beyond a piece of real estate and has expanded to issues of Islam in America.

Rauf said he believes the protests against the center are linked to the upcoming U.S. elections. He said U.S.-Muslim relations are strained and being made worse by misinformation.

Rauf avoided questions about whether an alternative site for the Islamic center is possible. Instead, he repeatedly stressed the need to embrace the religious and political freedoms in the United States.

The stop in Dubai was Rauf's last scheduled public appearance during the 15-day State Department-Funded trip to the Gulf.