Anti-Koran pastor plans to meet with NY imam

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — As thousands of Afghans protested a tiny Florida church’s plan to burn the Muslim holy book, the church’s pastor said he won’t follow through with the burning if he’s able to meet Saturday with the organizers behind a mosque planned near ground zero in New York.

In Afghanistan, at least 11 people were injured Friday in protests.

Police in the northern province of Badakhshan said several hundred demonstrators ran toward a NATO compound where four attackers and five police were injured in clashes. Protesters also burned an American flag at a mosque after Friday prayers. In western Farah province, police said two people were injured in another protest.

Speaking to NBC’s “Today” show, the Rev. Terry Jones said if he meets with the imam in New York, he won’t burn the Koran. It wasn’t clear if he meant the burning would be halted indefinitely or just for Saturday.

Imam Muhammad Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, told CBS’ “The Early Show” he had a commitment for Mr. Jones and himself to meet in New York with the imam there.

City officials in Gainesville said Friday that no matter what Mr. Jones says he’ll do, they planned to stick with their plan to increase security in response to the event.

Earlier, Mr. Jones and Imam Musri had disagreed sharply on the terms of their agreement.

Mr. Jones said Thursday he would call off the planned burning of Korans based on a deal negotiated with Imam Musri that the location of a mosque planned near ground zero in New York would be changed.

But Imam Musri said he was clear on Thursday when he told Mr. Jones that he could only set up a meeting with planners of the New York City mosque. Mr. Jones responded by suggesting that he would go forward with his plan on Saturday after all.

“We are just really shocked,” Mr. Jones said of Imam Musri. “He clearly, clearly lied to us.”

For U.S. political leaders and Muslims around the world who have been outraged by Mr. Jones‘ antics, the on-again, off-again threat bred even more frustration.

Cleric Rusli Hasbi told 1,000 worshippers attending Friday morning prayers in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, that whether or not he burns the Koran, Mr. Jones had already “hurt the heart of the Muslim world.”

“If he’d gone through with it, it would have been tantamount to war,” the cleric said in the coastal town of Lhokseumawe. “A war that would have rallied Muslims all over the world.”

Muslims consider the book the sacred word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect.

In Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of U.S. troops are in harm’s way, President Hamid Karzai said he heard Mr. Jones had perhaps abandoned his Koran-burning plan.

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