Pastor cancels plans to burn Korans
Under intense public pressure, the Florida pastor who wanted to burn Korans to protest Islamic extremism and the construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center in New York announced Thursday he was abandoning the plans, dpa reported.
Pastor Terry Jones had planned to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But Jones said he was dropping the plans in exchange for the possibility of relocating the planned construction of the mosque.
More than 2,500 Americans died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
"We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday," Jones said, adding that he accomplished his goal. "The American people don't want the mosque there and of course Muslims do not want us to burn their Koran."
Jones spoke to reporters in Gainesville, Florida, the site of the his Dove World Outreach Centre, which has a congregation of about 50 people.
The New York imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, planned to build the mosque and Islamic cultural centre, which sparked some controversy because of the close proximity to the site of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Jones said he planned to fly to New York on Saturday to meet with Rauf. There was no immediate confirmation from Rauf of a deal with Jones.
The meeting was mediated by Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida who appeared with Jones. Musri said burning the Koran would have been "a clear provocation" to Muslims and said he was grateful Jones backed off.
"I want to thank him for making the decision today to defuse the situation and bring to a positive end what has become the world over a spectacle that no one would benefit from except extremists and terrorists," Musri said.
Jones was widely condemned for the plans from US officials who considered it an outrage but were also concerned burning the Koran would cause violent reprisals against US soldiers in Muslim nations as well as American diplomats and citizens overseas. They were also concerned it would fuel Islamic extremism.
US President Barack Obama weighed in on Thursday, saying it would be a "recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda." US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced the plans and said it did not represent American values. Several US officials referred to Jones and his congregation as a "fringe" group and urged the media to ignore him.