Gainesville pastor says he canceled 9/11 burning because he had assurances a mosque near ground zero would be moved.
A Florida pastor's controversial idea of burning Qurans on 9/11 has turned into a game of chicken on the eve of the solemn anniversary.
The Rev. Terry Jones issued a two-hour ultimatum to a New York imam to begin talks to move a planned mosque near the ground zero site in New York.
"Let me make it crystal clear," said K.A. Paul, who appeared next to Jones at a press conference Friday. "We would challenge the imam to call us within the next two hours so that we can set up a meeting."
Jones had agreed Thursday to not burn over 200 Qurans on Saturday after being told by a central Florida Muslim leader that the ground zero mosque would be moved. That alleged deal was immediately refuted by the man planning the New York mosque, which appears to put the issue of the Quran bonfire back on the front burner.
The deadline was 3:20 p.m., but Jones' phone still didn't ring. So Round 1 of chicken goes to the New York Muslim leader.
Jones' son told reporters that there will be no Quran burning this weekend at the church, but he wasn't making any promises about future bonfires.
"We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans," Jones said during a Thursday 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."
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf issued a statement through his publicist saying that was false, and there had been no negotiations of the
sort. Manhattan real estate developer Sharif El-Gamal also denied that any talks had taken place.
He said the center would go forward as planned.
After hearing about the imam's comments, Jones said he felt "tricked and lied to" if the mosque is not moved. He insisted that central Florida Imam Muhammad Musri told him four times in front of witnesses that the New York mosque leaders promised to move it.
The misunderstanding caused Jones to open the door for the burning to go on as planned.
"We are just really shocked," Jones said of Imam Muhammad Musri. "He clearly, clearly lied to us."
Jones' plans to burn Islam's holiest text this Saturday sparked an international outcry.
President Barack Obama, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and several Christian leaders had urged Jones to reconsider his plans. The Pentagon also said they made a call Thursday, asking Jones to reconsider.
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.
Locally, South Florida Muslims planned peaceful rallies to combat the plans of the Gainesville pastor. Most were centered on prayer and rememberence of the 9/11 victims.
A candlelight vigil at Bayfront Park has been scheduled for Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and encourages people from all religious faiths to attend.
The Archdiocese of Miami also commented on the plans for the Quran burning Thursday, denouncing the idea as an action that "represents a counter-witness to the Gospel message by engendering fear and hatred."