GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) – The minister of a Florida church said he has canceled plans to burn copies of the Quran because the leader of a much-opposed plan to build an Islamic Center near ground zero has agreed to move its location. The agreement couldn't be immediately confirmed.
The Rev. Terry Jones said Thursday that Americans oppose the mosque being built at the location and that Muslims do not want the Quran burned. He said instead of his plan to burn the books on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11, he will be flying to New York to speak to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf about moving the mosque.
"We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans," Jones said during a news conference. We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it."
President Barack Obama, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and several Christian leaders had urged Jones to reconsider his plans to burn the Quran, Islam's holiest text that Muslims consider sacred. They said his actions would endanger U.S. soldiers and provide a strong recruitment tool for Islamic extremists. Jones' protest also drew criticism from religious and political leaders from across the Muslim world.
Jones said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida told him that officials would guarantee that the mosque would be moved.
"I asked him three times, and I have witnesses," Jones 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."
Musri thanked Jones and his church members "for making the decision today to defuse the situation and bring to a positive end what has become the world over a spectacle that no one would benefit from except extremists and terrorists" who would use it to recruit future radicals.
Update: After Rev. Terry Jones said he reached an agreement with Imam Muhammad Musri to halt the burning of Qurans in exchange for the relocation of the so-called Ground Zero mosque, news reports are suggesting that New York Imam Feisal Rauf, one of the Cordoba Initiative's key organizers, is unwilling to comply with the agreement.