Quran Burning Decision May Come Down To The Wire

The pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Fla., has been planning to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday which is the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Pressure has been mounting for him not to follow through on the plan.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

After a week of international controversy, the pastor of a small Florida church has called off plans to burn the Quran - maybe. Terry Jones is pastor of Dove World Outreach Center. He held a news conference yesterday to say he had decided to cancel the Quran burning scheduled for this Saturday - the anniversary of 9/11.

What complicates that decision is that it involves another controversial item in the news - an Islamic Center planned near Ground Zero in New York. From Gainesville, Florida, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN: For the pastor of a small church with just 50 some members, overnight, Terry Jones became a person in demand. Yesterday, a steady stream of people - officials, religious leaders, neighbors, the media - came or called.�A team of FBI agents came and talked to him. Later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was on the phone reiterating President Obama's call that he reconsider his Quran burning plans.

In the end, the meeting that made the difference - that convinced Jones to call it off was one with a Florida Islamic leader, Mohammad Musri.�

Jones says he talked to Musri about plans by New York Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to build an Islamic Center near the former site of the World Trade Center.

Reverend TERRY JONES (Dove World Outreach Center): That if they were willing to, either cancel the mosque at the Ground Zero location, or if they were willing to move that location, we would consider that a sign from God.

ALLEN: After two meetings with Florida Muslim leader, Mohammad Musri, Jones said he was convinced they had a deal.

Reverend JONES: The Imam has agreed to move the mosque. We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday. And on Saturday, I will be flying up there to meet with him.�

ALLEN: It soon became clear however there actually was no deal at all.

The Gainesville news conference was hardly over before word came from Imam Rauf that he had no intention of moving the Islamic Center. In a statement, the imam said he was glad Jones would not be burning Qurans, but, quote, "We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter.�

Later, Jones said he felt he'd been lied to, and said he was reconsidering his decision to cancel the Quran burning. A church spokesman said the event was being suspended until the meeting with Rauf is confirmed.

The man in the middle, Florida Imam Mohammad Musri, says he never suggested to Jones there was a deal to move the New York Islamic Center. But Musri said Imam Rauf's office agreed to hear Jones's concerns.

Imam MOHAMMAD MUSRI: And I had a commitment from them, that I and the pastor would be welcome to have a meeting. And that, yes, that very subject - the moving of the mosque would be discussed and that he would consider it.

ALLEN: A week ago, few people outside of Gainesville had heard of Terry Jones or his small church, Dove World Outreach Center. That all changed when word of his plans to burn Qurans made it to the Muslim world. After protests erupted in Indonesia and Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, said that action - burning Qurans - could endanger U.S. troops abroad and hurt the war effort.

In televised interviews this morning, Jones said he was making plans to fly to New York, and that he had no plans, for now, for Quran burning.

Greg Allen, NPR news, Gainesville, Florida.�

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