US & Canada

US pastor Terry Jones cancels Koran burning

The pastor of a small US church who planned to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 has cancelled his protest.

Terry Jones said he was calling off the event after the group behind a planned Islamic centre near Ground Zero in New York agreed to relocate it.

But the cultural centre's organisers said they had no plans to move it.

Mr Jones' plan had been internationally condemned and had already sparked many protests around the world.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had telephoned him to urge him to reconsider his plans. The pastor had also been visited several times by the FBI.

Mr Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, which has fewer than 50 members, had named Saturday "International Burn a Koran Day".

But at a news conference, he said he was now dropping the plans and urged his supporters to do the same.

"We would right now ask no one to burn Korans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it," he said.

He said he would travel to New York on Saturday to meet those behind the Islamic centre, saying they had "agreed to move the location".

"The American people do not want the mosque there, and, of course, Muslims do not want us to burn the Koran," he said.

"If it's not moved, then I think Islam is a very poor example of religion. I think that would be very pitiful. I do not expect that."

'No agreement'

Mr Jones was joined at his news conference by Muhammad Musri from the Islamic Foundation of Central Florida.

Mr Musri said he and Mr Jones had committed to travelling to New York "to come to a decision on moving the mosque".

"We are committed to dissolving the situation here and there," he said.

He also thanked Mr Jones for his "courage and his willingness to take these serious events that are unfolding".

But the organisers of the New York centre said no agreement had been reached with Mr Jones.

Leader of the New York project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf issued a statement saying he welcomed the cancellation of the Koran burning.

"However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri," he added.

"We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."

Mr Musri clarified to reporters that no guarantees about moving the Islamic centre had been given.

He and Mr Jones had only agreed to fly to New York to discuss the location of the Islamic centre with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

Plans for the Islamic centre have prompted fierce debate in the US because of its proximity to the scene of the 9/11 terror attacks.

President Barack Obama had earlier warned Mr Jones the proposed burning would be "a recruitment bonanza" for al-Qaeda.

The US State Department had warned US citizens of an increased risk of attack, while international police organisation Interpol also issued a warning of the risk of violent response.

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