(RNS) President Clinton, greeting Muslims as they prepared to mark the feast of Eid-al-Fitr, called Ramadan, the holy month of fasting which 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 of the new moon marks the end of Ramadan and the start of the festival of Eid-al-Fitr. Reuters reported that in the United States, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, the festival began on Friday while Syria, Tunisia and other predominantly Muslim nations will begin their celebrations on Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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