US Koran burning event on hold, says pastor Terry Jones

Pastor Jones: "We have now put a temporary hold on our planned event"

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The US pastor who threatened to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 says his plans are on hold.

Terry Jones's plan caused international outrage, with President Barack Obama saying it would be a "recruitment bonanza" for al-Qaeda.

Mr Jones, who leads a small church with 50 followers, initially said the burning had been cancelled.

He then said it was only suspended because he was "lied to" over a deal to move an Islamic centre in New York.

Thousands of protesters held anti-American rallies across Afghanistan on Friday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the Florida church's plan, if it went ahead, would be an "affront" and insult to all Muslims.

'Stretched words'

Mr Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, had named Saturday "International Burn a Koran Day".

On Thursday, Mr Jones told reporters he had spent days waiting for a sign from God to cancel the protest, and that the sign had come in the form of a deal with a local imam to relocate a controversial Islamic cultural centre due to be built near Ground Zero in New York.

Controversy timeline

  • July Terry Jones announces his church in Gainesville, Florida, will stage "International Burn a Koran Day". National Association of Evangelicals asks the church to call off the event
  • 18 August Gainesville Fire Rescue denies Mr Jones a fire permit, saying the church will be fined if it goes ahead.
  • 6 September Top US commander in Afghanistan Gen David Petraeus warns that burning could put troops' lives will be in danger
  • 8 September Vatican condemns bonfire plans as "outrageous"
  • 9 September US President Barack Obama joins international condemnation. Mr Jones then says he has cancelled the burning, before saying it is only suspended.

As a result, he said, he was dropping the planned protest and urged his supporters to do the same.

However, those behind the cultural centre denied that they ever spoken to the local imam or Mr Jones.

Mr Jones then said Imam Muhammad Musri had "clearly, clearly lied to us".

"Given what we are now hearing, we are forced to rethink our decision," Mr Jones said. "So as of right now, we are not cancelling the event, but we are suspending it."

Mr Musri, from the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said Mr Jones had "stretched his words", and that he had only agreed to fly to New York with Mr Jones on Saturday and speak with the leaders of the Islamic centre project.

Mr Musri said he had told the pastor "that I personally believe the mosque should not be there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it is moved", but denied ever mentioning any offer to move it.

FBI visits

Earlier, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had called the pastor and asked him to cancel Saturday's protest.

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How come an extremist planning a book-burning that would disgrace any time after the Middle Ages has some of the top politicians in the West jerking around like puppets on a string ?”

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The top US general in Afghanistan, Gen David Petraeus said that if the Koran burning went ahead it would endanger the lives of Americans serving abroad.

Mr Jones was also visited by the FBI a number of times on Thursday.

The US state department has warned US citizens of an increased risk of attack, while international police organisation Interpol also issued a warning of the risk of violent response.

The threat by the Dove World Outreach Centre had been widely condemned by religious and political leaders worldwide.

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