A project to build one of the largest Islamic cultural centres in Europe in the Swiss capital, Bern, will not be realised, it was announced on Friday.
The Bern authorities said they had other plans for the zone, a former abattoir area in Wankdorf, in the northern part of the city.
The 23,000 square metre centre, the concept of which had been proposed by Umma, a Bern-based Islamic coordination centre, would have comprised a museum on Islam, a mosque, a convention centre, offices and a four-star hotel.
The plan was revealed in a Swiss newspaper in April. Supporters had said that central to the project was "the prospect for a differentiated dialogue with Islam".
Announcing their decision, Bern city officials said the land, part of the development project called "Wankdorf City", had been set aside for a regional medical centre.
City official Barbara Hayoz said that for the moment Bern did not have any other land available on which to house the Islamic centre.
She stressed, however, that the city wanted to encourage intercultural dialogue, as seen by its support of the House of Religions. Work on that building is set to begin in early 2008.
Noted with regret
Umma said in a statement on Friday that it had noted the decision with regret and that it was the city's right to decide on such projects.
But it added that it would have preferred a closer examination of the proposal and an exchange of views before the decision was made.
The centre would have cost an estimated SFr60-80 million ($72-96 million) and would have been named the Avicenna Centre after a Persian philosopher and scientist who lived 1,000 years ago.
Organisers had hoped the centre would attract a similar level of interest and acclaim as the Paul Klee Centre, a museum dedicated to Swiss painter Paul Klee, which is also located in Bern.
There are about 310,000 Muslims in Switzerland, mainly from the Balkans and Turkey, representing up to five per cent of the Swiss population.
Source: Swissinfo (English)
See also: Switzerland: Plans to build Europe's largest Islamic center