New York, Jan 15 (Agencies): A group seeking to build an Islamic cultural centre and mosque close to Ground Zero named a new imam to head up the controversial project.

The new director of the project, Imam Abdallah Adhami, is an American Muslim who was born in Washington, and has worked for the past 20 years as an Islamic leader in the United States, the Park51 organisation said on Friday.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity to be a key advisor on a project going forward that has enormous creative and healing potential for the collective good in New York City and in our nation," Adhami said in a statement.

The Park51 organisation said that Muslim leader Feisal Abdul Rauf, who had been the main person behind the project, will now tour the United States to meet religious leaders from other communities.

"Imam Feisal will remain on the Board of Directors of Park51," the statement said.

The proposed centre, to be located two blocks from the site of the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, has fuelled vehement protests from those who said the site should not house a mosque.

Al-Qaeda militants riding two hijacked planes smashed into the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, destroying the famed Twin Towers and killing almost 3,000 people.

The centre sparked a national debate about the place of Islam among the numerous religions practiced in the United States.