US pastor rethinking on cancelling Quran burning

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : A Florida pastor who called off his controversial Quran burning plan was “rethinking” his position after being told that there was no deal on moving the proposed Islamic center near New York’s ground zero.

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The new twist late Thursday was one of several on a day when President Barack Obama and Defence Secretary Robert Gates urged the Rev. Terry Jones to call off the Quran burning event planned for the ninth anniversary of the Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

During the afternoon, Jones cancelled his plan to burn copies of the Quran, based on what he said were assurances from a local Muslim leader that the Islamic center in New York would be moved — an assertion rejected by the center’s visionary in New York.

Jones, leader of the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center, announced he will travel Saturday to New York to meet with the religious leader behind the planned mosque, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, about a new location.

Hours later, Rauf and Imam Muhammad Musri, a Florida Muslim leader who appeared with Jones, said no agreement on a meeting or relocation of the mosque had been reached.

Wayne Sapp, associate pastor of the small church, told CNN that the Quran burning scheduled for Saturday was postponed until the proposed meeting in New York is confirmed.

The church will wait 24 hours to confirm the meeting will take place before making any further decision about the Quran burning, Sapp said.

The back-and-forth over the mosque location and the meeting continued into the evening Thursday. Jones insisted he had been told of a deal on moving the center, but Musri said instead he was brokering a meeting with Rauf.

“We are cancelling the event because they have agreed to move the ground zero mosque,” Jones said, claiming his announcement was based on several conversations with Musri.

But the latter said he had not spoken with Rauf and was not authorised to say the Islamic center would be moved. Jones may have “stretched” their conversations to say there was a deal, Musri told CNN. He said he believes Jones knows there was no deal on the mosque.

Jones’ plans to burn the Qurans had set off a firestorm of concern, including from US military leaders who said the event would imperil the lives of troops abroad, chiefly Islamic Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The pastor told reporters Thursday that he took a phone call from Gates, who “was very gracious and encouraged us not to continue”. The call was later confirmed by CNN.

Also Thursday, real estate mogul Donald Trump offered to buy the lower Manhattan site where the Muslim group plans to build an Islamic community center, for 25 percent more than the current owners paid for it.

Interpol Thursday issued a global alert to its 188 member countries, warning of a “strong likelihood” of violent attacks if the Quran burning proceeded.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])