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No deal made to halt Quran burning, Muslim leader says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Imam: Pastor 'absolutely wrong'
  • The Rev. Terry Jones says he is rethinking the decision not to burn Qurans
  • Jones says he's planning to meet with Muslim leaders in New York
  • He says he was assured the Islamic center near New York's ground zero will be moved
  • But center developers say no move is planned, and no meeting has been set

(CNN) -- A Florida Muslim leader is disputing claims by the Rev. Terry Jones that he brokered a deal to get the Islamic center project near New York's ground zero moved if the pastor called off his Quran burning event.

Imam Muhammad Musri said Jones may have hatched the story about the Islamic center moving to "give himself a reason to call this off."

Jones "was trying to save face," Musri said Thursday night on CNN's "AC360."

Musri said he did not tell Jones that the Islamic center project would be moved away from ground zero.

'He's accusing me of lying to him, which I did not. I was very explicit with him." said Musri, who is with the Islamic Society of Central Florida.

Video: Imam shocked by pastor's speech
Video: Uncertainty surrounds move
Video: Pastor cancels Quran burning

The disagreement between the two religious figures is the latest twist in the saga about the proposed Quran burning event.

President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday urged Jones to call off the Saturday event, timed for the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Jones said he would call off the event but then seemed to be changing his mind later Thursday. During the afternoon, Jones said he canceled his plan to burn copies of the Quran, based on what he said were assurances that the Islamic center in New York would be moved.

Late Thursday, Jones said he would "rethink our position" after Musri said he had never given Jones that assurance.

Jones, leader of the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center, also announced he will travel Saturday to New York to meet with the religious leader behind the planned center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, about a new location.

But that, too, was questioned.

Rauf and Musri have both said no agreement on a meeting or relocation of the mosque had been reached.

Wayne Sapp, associate pastor of the small church, said that the Quran burning scheduled for Saturday was postponed until the proposed meeting in New York is confirmed. The church will wait 24 hours to confirm the meeting will take place before making any further decision about the Quran burning, Sapp said.

Jones' plan to burn Qurans had set off a firestorm of concern, including from U.S. military leaders who said the event would imperil the lives of troops abroad.

The pastor told reporters Thursday that he took a phone call from Gates, who "was very gracious and encouraged us not to continue." The call was later confirmed by CNN.

Also Thursday, real estate mogul Donald Trump offered to buy the lower Manhattan site where the Muslim group plans to build an Islamic community center. Trump offered 25 percent more than the current owners paid for it.

Trump made the offer in a letter to Hisham Elzanaty, an investor in the Islamic center site.

"I am making this offer as a resident of New York and citizen of the United States, not because I think the location is a spectacular one (because it is not), but because it will end a very serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation that is destined, in my opinion, to only get worse," he wrote.

Rauf had said Wednesday evening that "nothing is off the table" when asked whether he would consider moving the site.

"We are consulting, talking to various people about how to do this so that we negotiate the best and safest option."

The imam told CNN's Soledad O'Brien on "Larry King Live" that "had I known [the controversy] would happen, we certainly would never have done this."

Asked if he meant he would not have picked the location, Rauf said, "we would not have done something that would create more divisiveness."

Obama called the plan by Jones to burn the Qurans on Saturday a "recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda."

"You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan" as a result of the burning, Obama said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "This could increase the recruitment of individuals who'd be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities."

Interpol on Thursday issued a global alert to its 188-member countries, warning of a "strong likelihood" of violent attacks if the Quran burning proceeded.

The FBI visited Jones at the Dove Center on Thursday, according to Jeffrey Westcott, special agent in charge of the Jacksonville, Florida, bureau. The FBI also visited him a few weeks ago, he said, but would not say what was discussed.

Earlier Thursday, discussions were taking place within the Obama administration about the possibility of intervening, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Earlier this week, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, warned that the plan "could cause significant problems" for American troops overseas.

Jones had rejected the pleas, saying his message targets radical Islamists.

"The general needs to point his finger to radical Islam and tell them to shut up, tell them to stop, tell them that we will not bow our knees to them," Jones said on CNN's "AC360 Tuesday." "We are burning the book. We are not killing someone. We are not murdering people."

CNN's Paul Courson, Carol Cratty, Tristan Smith, Marylynn Ryan, Phil Gast and Rich Phillips contributed to this report.