GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A New York imam at the center of the controversy over a mosque near ground zero said there was no meeting planned with a Florida minister who previously threatened to stage a Quran-burning stunt.
"I am prepared to consider meeting with anyone who is seriously committed to pursuing peace," a statement from Imam Feisal Adbul Rauf said. "We have no such meeting planned at this time. Our plans for the community center have not changed. With the solemn day of September 11 upon us, I encourage everyone to take time for prayer and reflection."
Our cartoonists take a look at the Quran-burning controversy.
- Holy war
Pastor Terry Jones had told NBC's TODAY Show on Friday he would not burn the Quran but could change his mind if a proposed meeting failed to take place Saturday in New York with Muslim leaders planning to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Officials from the Florida church told NBC News that they did not plan a burning event.
"There will be no Quran burning tomorrow. ... Do I have to repeat that over and over and over?" Luke Jones, the pastor's son told NBC News.
In earlier developments, Muhammad Musri, an imam and president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, told CBS TV's "The Early Show" he had a commitment for Jones and himself to meet in New York with the imam there. Subsequently, NBC News reported that ABC's "Good Morning America" show would be flying Jones to New York for the meeting. Later, however, an ABC News spokesperson told the TVNewser website that an offer was made to the pastor by an ABC News staffer in Gainesville, but network higher-ups decided against paying for Jones' flight to New York.
Jones appeared on all three network newscasts this morning. Jones said he has made contact with Musri but that he had not made direct contact with the New York imam.
"No decision has been made to whether we will burn or not burn Qurans," he told NBC. "It is under serious consideration, but at this this point no decision has been made."
On Friday, President Barack Obama said he hoped Jones would refrain from burning Qurans because it could cause "profound damage" to U.S. interests abroad.
"The idea that we would burn the sacred text of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for," Obama told a news conference, warning it could lead to retaliation against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"This is a way of endangering our troops, our sons and daughters." he said. "It is in the age of the Internet something that can cause us profound damage around the world, so we've got to take it seriously."
Earlier, on the TODAY show, Jones blamed Musri for the confusion surrounding the Quran burning plan's status, and said he felt "lied to."Video: Pastor Terry Jones: ‘I was lied to’ (on this page)
Jones and Musri had disagreed sharply on the terms of the agreement.
Jones said Thursday he would call off the planned burning of Qurans based on a deal negotiated with the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida that the location of a mosque planned near ground zero in New York would be changed.
But Musri said he was clear on Thursday when he told Jones that he could only set up a meeting with planners of the New York City mosque, whose leader said he had spoken to neither the pastor nor Musri. Jones responded by opening the door, if only a crack, that he would go forward with his plan on Saturday.
"We are just really shocked," Jones said of Musri. "He clearly, clearly lied to us."
Jones' church, which has about 50 members, is independent of any denomination. It follows the pentecostal tradition, which teaches that the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in the modern day.
Meanwhile, at least 11 protesters were wounded outside a German-run NATO base in northeast Afghanistan Friday. Police said initial reports that someone was killed were wrong. Demonstrations later spread to the capital, Kabul, and at least four other provinces.
Asked if he feels responsible for the demonstrations and the reported death of a protester in Afghanistan, Jones said his church did not pull the trigger, and that the incident "reveals the true nature of Islam."
Jones said he and his followers do not condone violence and that they were surprised by the level of anger. He said radical Islam is more dangerous than even church members ever thought.Video: Time-lapse shows fast-paced work at 9/11 site
“I am just a man who is trying to do what god has told us to do,” he said, adding that one of his aims is to shed light on the dangers of Islamic militancy.
For U.S. political leaders and Muslims around the world who have been outraged by Jones' antics, the on-again, off-again threat bred even more angst and frustration.
Cleric Rusli Hasbi told 1,000 worshippers attending Friday morning prayers in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, that whether or not he burns the Quran, Jones had already "hurt the heart of the Muslim world."
"If he'd gone through with it, it would have been tantamount to war," the cleric said in the coastal town of Lhokseumawe. "A war that would have rallied Muslims all over the world."
Muslims consider the book the sacred word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect.
In Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of U.S. troops are in harm's way, President Hamid Karzai said he had heard reports that Jones had abandoned his Quran-burning plan.
"The holy book is implanted in the hearts and minds of all the Muslims," Karzai said. "Humiliation of the holy book represents the humiliation of our people. I hope that this decision will be stopped and should never have been considered."
Part of the pressure exerted on Jones came from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who briefly spoke to the pastor before his first announcement to call it off. Gates expressed "his grave concern that going forward with this Quran burning would put the lives of our forces at risk, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
Jones said on TODAY that he told Gates the church takes the danger "very seriously," and that members were praying about it.
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