(RNS) Latin American and Middle Eastern politicians and religiousleaders gathered on Monday (Sept. 25) in Buenos Aires with more than1,000 spectators to mark the opening of Latin America's largest mosqueand Muslim community center.

"In Argentina, we feel proud that ethnic and religious differencesdo not divide us but rather bear the fruit of a richer society," saidArgentine President Fernando de la Rua, according to Reuters newsagency. He said he hoped the King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center wouldhelp bring together the people of Argentina, where some 500,000practicing Muslims live.

Rua's Roman Catholic predecessor Carlos Menem, the son of SyrianMuslim immigrants, donated the 7 1/2 acres of land upon which the390,000-square-foot cultural center stands.

The 1,500-person capacity building which was nearly two years in themaking cost $22 million, a price tag was covered by the king of SaudiArabia under a $20 billion mosque construction and restoration programthat has produced more than 200 Islamic centers and 1,500 mosquesworldwide.

In addition to a sports complex and dormitories, the Buenos Airesbuilding contains an exhibit auditorium, a primary and secondary school,and a cafe.

Five years ago then-senator de la Rua was one of many outspokencritics of the center. Some feared the center could lead to an attacksimilar to one in in the early 1990s, when a bomb detonated at a Jewishcommunity center in Buenos Aires.