NEW YORK (AP) _ Liberty Island, home of the Statue of Liberty, will reopen to visitors Thursday for the first time since terrorists leveled the World Trade Center just across New York's harbor.

But the statue itself will remain closed for security reasons at least until 2002, the National Park Service said Monday.

``For over a century now, the statue has represented the ideal of America and liberty,'' park spokesman Brian Feeney said. ``After Sept. 11, people want to reconnect ... We still have some more security measures to take care of within the statue itself, but we felt it important to open the island at this point.''

He said Liberty Island, along with the Ellis Island immigration museum that is part of the same tour, will accept visitors beginning Thursday. The plan is for the statue to open to visitors next year, Feeney said.

Tightened security means tourists will have to go through screening long before they get near the statue, Feeney said.

``We're going to engage in offsite screening, before the people even get on the boats,'' Feeney said. ``It's going to be similar to airport screening in that anything you're carrying goes through an X-ray machine and you go through a magnetometer.''

Before Sept. 11, visitors were screened on the island before entering the statue.

Feeney said final approval to reopen the island came from Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

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