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Quran Burning Still on for 9/11, Minister Says

Updated at 7:08 p.m. ET

The leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy said Wednesday afternoon he was determined to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, despite pressure from the White House, religious leaders and others to call it off.

The Rev. Terry Jones said at a press conference that he has received a lot of encouragement for his protest, with supporters mailing copies of the Islamic holy text to his Gainesville church of about 50 followers. The plan is to incinerate the Qurans in a bonfire Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11.

"As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing," said Jones, who took no questions.

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There was one small sign the pastor who's never read the Quran or visited a mosque was willing to hear from the other side, CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports. Jones spent 30 minutes with a local imam.

"I think the pastor as a Christian will follow in the footsteps of Christ and will do the right thing," Imam Muhammad Musri told CBS News.

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Jones' own daughter has told a Gainesville newspaper that his church is a cult, closed to the outside world and controlled by Jones, who in depositions for a lawsuit said Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism all are "of the devil," Cobiella reports.

Jones said previously he has received more than 100 death threats and has started carrying a .40-caliber pistol since announcing his plan to burn the book Muslims consider the word of God and insist be treated with the utmost respect. The 58-year-old minister proclaimed in July that he would stage "International Burn-a-Quran Day."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and several Christian leaders have asked Jones to reconsider his plans to burn the Qurans outside his Gainesville church Saturday. They say his actions will endanger U.S. soldiers and provide a strong recruitment tool for Islamic extremists.

Jones told CBS News Wednesday morning his intentions had not changed.

"As of right now, we feel that this message is that important. We are still determined to do it, yes," he told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith.

Despite admitting to CBS News in an interview Tuesday that his actions would almost certainly offend all the world's Muslims, Jones insisted Wednesday morning that his "warning" was "geared towards radical Islam," followers of which he claimed were trying to gain control and impose Muslim law in the United States.

"We see its influence around the world. We are sending a message to them that we don't want them to do as they appear to be doing in
Europe," Jones told CBS News. "We want them to know if they're in America, they need to obey our law and Constitution and not slowly push their agenda upon us."

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Kabul, took the rare step of a military leader taking a position on a domestic matter when he warned in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around the world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence."

Petraeus spoke Wednesday with Afghan President Karzai about the matter, according to a military spokesman Col. Erik Gunhus. "They both agreed that burning of a Quran would undermine our effort in Afghanistan, jeopardize the safety of coalition troopers and civilians," Gunhus said, and would "create problems for our Afghan partners ... as it likely would be Afghan police and soldiers who would have to deal with any large demonstrations."

Jones claims Islamic fundamentalism is far more widespread among America's Muslim population than believed or acknowledged by officials. He cited as an example an incident he claims took place Tuesday, in which a Muslim woman came onto his church's property and threatened him.

Jones, whose small church in Gainesville has a regular attendance of less than 100 people, has refused to give in to pressure from the White House.

Attorney General Eric Holder lashed out at the Quran burning plans, reportedly calling them idiotic and dangerous in a private meeting with religious leaders on Tuesday.

Asked by Smith how Jones could reconcile his intended actions with the Bible's call to "love thy enemy," he said, "this approach is not the normal approach, but I believe this approach is at this particular time in history very necessary."

"With this action here, this action here itself is not -- is not supposed to be an act of love. We agree that generally that's what we do. We would reach out to Muslims in other ways," Jones told CBS News. "This particular act is actually an act of warning radical Islam. It's a different type of a thing."

His actions likely would be protected by the First Amendment's right to free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that speech deemed offensive to many people, even the majority of people, cannot be suppressed by the government unless it is clearly directed to intimidate someone or amounts to an incitement to violence, legal experts said.

The Vatican denounced the planned Quran burning as "outrageous and grave."

David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Obama told CNN Wednesday morning: "The reverend may have the right to do what he's doing but it's not right. It's not consistent with our values ... I hope that his conscience and his good sense will take hold."

Staffan de Mistura, head of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, expressed concern and outrage "in the strongest possible terms," and added, "If such an abhorrent act were to be implemented, it would only contribute to fueling the arguments of those who are indeed against peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan."

Local religious leaders in this progressive Florida city of 125,000 anchored by the sprawling University of Florida campus also criticized the lanky preacher with the bushy white mustache. 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. A student group is organizing a protest across the street from the church Saturday.

Gainesville's new mayor, Craig Lowe, who during his campaign became the target of a Jones-led protest because he is openly gay, has declared Sept. 11 Interfaith Solidarity Day in the city.

The fire department has denied Jones a required burn permit, but he said lawyers have told him he has the right to burn the Qurans, with or without the city's permission.

In Afghanistan, Jones' planned burning continued to provoke outrage.

"It is the duty of Muslims to react," said Mohammad Mukhtar, a cleric and candidate for the Afghan parliament in the Sept. 18 election. "When their holy book Quran gets burned in public, then there is nothing left. If this happens, I think the first and most important reaction will be that wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed. No matter where they will be in the world they will be killed."

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Kabul resident, Rajab Ali said, "If this (burning of the Quran) happens there will be chaos in Afghanistan and being a Muslim, if we don't defend the Quran then what else we can do?"

The Quran, according to Jones, is "evil" because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.

Muslims consider the Quran along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad to be sacred. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect Quran is deeply offensive.

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.