A Florida minister who had created an international furor with his plan to burn the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks canceled the event under intense pressure Thursday, saying he agreed to back off after reaching a deal to move the location of a controversial mosque near New York's ground zero.
(Scroll down to watch the Rev. Terry Jones announce the cancellation of his Quran-burning protest)
The Rev. Terry Jones announced his decision Thursday afternoon, standing outside his small church alongside Imam Muhammad Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. However, Musri and the imam planning the New York mosque disputed Jones' contention that a deal had been cut.
A representitive for the New York imam told CBS News that any .
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Jones now claims the controversial Islamic center near ground zero had always been a key factor in his decision, CBS New Correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports from Gainesville.
"Our thought was the American people do not, as a whole, want the mosque at the ground zero location," Jones told reporters Thursday.
Jones conveyed the importance of the center's location to Musri, the imam told Cobiella.
"He said, 'I don't care if it's moved today or 10 years from now as long as eventually there's no mosque at ground zero,'" Musri told Cobiella. "As Muslims we should be very sensitive to the feelings of the families of the victims of 9/11."
In Afghanistan, the Taliban has used the Quran-burning controversy to win new recruits, CBS News Correspondent Mandy Clark reports from Kabul. CBS News Thursday obtained Taliban leaflets that . Most villagers are illiterate, so the leaflets would have been left with imams to read out in mosques and spread the word that way.
The Taliban has capitalized on the controversy at the holiest time of the year for Muslims, a time when the mosques will be packed with followers, Clark reports.
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Jones, the pastor of a Florida Pentecostal church of 50 members, has said that he believes the Quran is evil because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.
Jones on Thursday said he prayed about the decision and that if the site of the mosque was moved, it would be a sign from God to call off the Quran burning.
"We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans," Jones said during the 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."
His decision comes after a firestorm of criticism from leaders around the world. President Obama, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and several Christian leaders had urged Jones to reconsider his plans. 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.
They warned that the plan would put Americans in danger around the world. In Afghanistan, hundreds of angry Afghans burned an American flag and chanted "Death to the Christians" to protest the planned Quran burning.
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.
Russ Blackburn, Gainesville city manager: "It's very good news for Gainesville and good news for everyone involved."
Jones' neighbors in Gainesville, a city of 125,000 anchored by the sprawling University of Florida campus, also have said they disapprove. At least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim organizations in the city have mobilized to plan inclusive events - some will read from the Quran at their own weekend services.
Jones' Dove Outreach Center is independent of any denomination. It follows the Pentecostal tradition, which teaches that the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in the modern day. Pentecostals often view themselves as engaged in spiritual warfare against satanic forces.
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