Pastor Terry Jones Cancels Koran Burning, Calls 'Ground Zero Mosque' Denial 'Very Disturbing'

Says events show Islam "more dangerous and much more violent than we thought."

September 9, 2010, 1:06 PM

Sept. 9, 2010 — -- A fiery Florida pastor today called off his bonfire of Korans after claiming he had a deal that would move a controversial mosque away from the site of the 9/11 terror attacks -- but the Muslim cleric planning the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" quickly denied to ABC News that he had agreed to move his project.

Pastor Terry Jones called the denial "very disturbing," telling ABC News' Terry Moran that assurances of a deal by Florida imam Muhammad Musri led him to drop his plan to burn Korans Saturday on the ninth anniversary of the terror attacks.

"We were promised from the imam here," Jones said in an interview airing tonight on ABC News' "Nightline." "In the meeting, there were several people who can confirm that. We find that very devastating. If that [denial] is true, that would mean the imam lied to us."

Nevertheless, Jones said the Koran burning remains cancelled -- for now.

"We are still believing that this promise [on the New York facility] will come about," he told Moran. "Right now, we have not lost hope that this will end as we said this afternoon."

Watch ABC News' "Nightline" tonight at 11:30 p.m. for more of Terry Moran's interview with Pastor Terry Jones.

Jones and Musri emerged from Jones' church in Gainesville, Fla., this afternoon to announce the decision to cancel his Koran burning, with Jones saying he viewed the supposed deal as "a sign from God."

The fiery pastor said that Imam Feisal Abdel Rauf, the leader behind what opponents have dubbed the "Ground Zero mosque" in Manhattan, would meet with him in New York on Saturday.

"He has agreed to move it," Jones said. "And we have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday."

"Americans don't want the mosque there and of course Muslims don't want us to burn Korans," said Jones.

Rauf, however, said that there is no deal.

"I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans," Rauf said. "However, I have not spoken with Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement."

"We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we here to barter. We are here to extend our hand to build peace and harmony," he told ABC News' Christiane Amanpour during an interview airing Sunday on "This Week."

"Let's say we moved under this current circumstance with this dialogue," said Rauf. "What will be the headline tomorrow in the Muslim world?"

"'Islam under attack in America.' That's the theme of it. 'Mosque forcibly removed by whatever.' That will feed the radicals. So diffusing terrorism is a necessity for our national security," he said.

For more of Amanpour's interview with Imam Feisal Abdel Rauf, tune in to "This Week With Christiane Amanpour" this Sunday. Check your local listings for the air time on your local ABC affiliate.

The developer of the project Rauf calls a multifaith community center also issued a denial.

"The Muslim Community Center called Park51 in Lower Manhattan is not being moved," read a statement from SoHo Properties. "The project will proceed as planned."

Musri, head of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, later said he never received word the mosque would be moved. He told The Associated Press he had only arranged a meeting between Jones and Rauf.

"I told the pastor that I personally believe the mosque should not be there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it is moved," Musri said. "But there is not any offer from there [New York] that it will be moved. All we have agreed to is a meeting, and I think we would all like to see a peaceful resolution."

He told CNN that he brokered the conversation between Jones and Rauf by speaking with Rauf's wife, Daisy Kahn.

"The placement of the mosque near Ground Zero is unnecessary and it has become a clear provocation to many people to be violent against mosques across the nation," Musri told CNN.

Jones' decision to cancel "International Burn a Koran Day" came on a chaotic day during which Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called the pastor in an effort to head off the Koran burning and real estate guru Donald Trump offered to buy out one of the investors of the New York site for 25 percent more than they had paid.

Pastor Terry Jones: 'Islam Is ... More Violent Than We Thought'

Jones told "Nightline" that despite cancelling the burn, events have upheld his dim view of Islam.

"Our opinion of Islam has only been confirmed through the very fact we've done nothing, we have not burned the Koran, [and] even though we haven't done anything there have been riots and threats around the world to us," he said. "That already confirms our mission has been accomplished to bring a greater awareness to America and the world that Islam is more dangerous and much more violent than we thought."

Earlier today, several FBI agents visited Jones at his church, the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.

FBI sources told ABC News that the agents were there to brief Jones on all the death threats he's received and to discuss how they would protect him and the church on Saturday.

The event sparked a worldwide debate over what kind of backlash the event may cause.

The international police agency Interpol released a warning to governments worldwide of an increased risk of terror attacks if Jones went ahead with his plan.

The U.S. State Department also issued a warning to Americans living and traveling abroad about the potential for violent protests before and after the scheduled burning.

Leaders of Pakistan, Indonesia and India called on the United States to take action to prevent Jones from desecrating the Islamic holy book, and Afghan insurgents were distributing flyers about the Koran burn to turn villagers against Americans.

Gates, Obama, Locals Weighed In Against Koran Burn

Gates called Jones between 4 and 4:30 p.m. today, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said, and "expressed his grave concerns that going forward with the Koran burning would put the lives of American servicemembers at risk, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he urged him not to proceed with the burning."

President Obama has criticized the proposed burning of Islam's holy book, and White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs today said the planned bonfire of Korans was a "monumentally terrible idea."

In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" today, Obama called Jones' plan, should he go through with it, "a recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda."

President Obama's Twitter account also tweeted, "Burning a Quran is contrary to our values -- this country was built on the notions of religious freedom and tolerance."

Pressure on Jones also came from local sources.

Gainesville Police Department Public Information Officer Cpl. Tscharna Senn declined to detail plans to patrol the event, but said that the department was "taking this very seriously."

"We are very concerned for everyone's safety," said Senn. "However, we have planned and believe that we have a very adequate plan in place to keep [the people of Gainesville] safe."

The estimated cost of the extra security planned for Jones' event was "tens of thousands of dollars," according to Gainesville City Manager Russ Blackburn. Blackburn said he'd "send Pastor Jones the bill."

"We want him to at least be aware of the cost incurred because of his actions," he said.

There also may be early signs of copycats. According to The Associated Press, a Springfield, Tenn., minister said he also plans to burn a Koran on Saturday, saying he thought Jones was "doing the right thing."

ABC News' Matt Gutman, Pierre Thomas, Kirit Radia and Michael S. James contributed to this report.