(RNS) President Clinton, greeting Muslims as they prepared to markthe feast of Eid-al-Fitr, called Ramadan, the holy month of fastingwhich ended Thursday, a "gift from Islam to the world." Ramadan, Clinton said in a statement from Shepherdstown, W. Va.,where he is participating in peace talks between Israel and Syria,reminds people to "aid those who face poverty and suffering." During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunup to sundown,abstaining from eating, drinking, cigarettes and sex. The sighting ofthe new moon marks the end of Ramadan and the start of the festival ofEid-al-Fitr. Reuters reported that in the United States, Saudi Arabiaand other Gulf states, the festival began on Friday while Syria, Tunisiaand other predominantly Muslim nations will begin their celebrations onSaturday.

"We hope and pray for a world where all faiths are respected; wherepeople of different beliefs and ethnic backgrounds can live together inharmony, finding strength and joy in our differences and in our commonhumanity.

"And we pray that the new moon will bring a new era of peace betweennations -- in the Middle East and all across the world -- so people canemerge from the shadows of violence and make better lives for theirchildren," said the statement released late Thursday night.

In New York, meanwhile, USA Today reported that Ramadan has alteredthe city's rhythms because many Muslim taxi drivers have been stoppingwork earlier each day -- often just at rush hour -- to attend a mosquefor prayers.

But the city's taxi officials say they have gotten no complaintsfrom passengers.

"This is America, and this is New York City," DianeMcGrath-McKechnie of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

"And it is everyone's privilege to worship as they choose, and wecelebrate that privilege and diversity," she added.