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Pastor behind Quran-burning plan arrives in New York

By the CNN Wire Staff
The Rev. Terry Jones faces reporters' questions Friday at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.
The Rev. Terry Jones faces reporters' questions Friday at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.
  • NEW: Terry Jones arrives in New York City
  • An evangelist says Jones indicated Qurans won't be burned Saturday
  • Jones has talked about meeting an imam behind a proposed Islamic center near ground zero
  • Imam: No meeting has been set up as of Friday

Read local coverage from CNN affiliate WABC.

(CNN) -- The Rev. Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who has garnered worldwide attention for his plan earlier this week to burn Qurans on September 11, arrived in New York late Friday night, according to footage provided by CNN affiliate WABC.

"I don't have anything to say right now," he told a group of reporters who followed him out of LaGuardia Airport and to a taxi cab.

K.A. Paul, an evangelist in contact with the Rev. Terry Jones, said Friday there will be no burning of the book Saturday evening, as had been originally planned.

Jones has said he was scheduled to travel to New York City on Friday night for a still-unscheduled meeting with the imam in charge of the New York Islamic center planned near ground zero. The planned meeting, Jones had said, helped persuade him to halt the planned burning.

Earlier Friday, Jones gave mixed messages about whether he intends to carry out his plans, which have sparked international controversy.

Video: Quran burning officially cancelled
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Video: Imam: Pastor 'absolutely wrong'
  • Terry Jones
  • Islam
  • New York City

Jones said the meeting had been promised Thursday by Florida Imam Mohammad Musri, who told him the Islamic center would be moved in exchange for the burning being called off.

But Musri said Friday he had made no such promise, and both Musri and the imam in charge of the New York center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, said there was no agreement on a meeting or relocation of the center.

Asked who was telling the truth about what Musri may or may not have promised, Musri told CNN on Friday, "Of course, I am."

"I made it very clear to him: I have no control over the project in New York," Musri said. "I am just a mediator here. I promised to set up the meeting and take him along, pay for it, but no guarantee that I can move that mosque. It's not my decision."

Musri said Jones had "exaggerated" the outcome of their Thursday afternoon meeting by telling reporters that Musri had promised that the Islamic center would be moved.

"That's not what I offered him," Musri insisted Friday.

Musri said he feels Jones is a "good person at heart" who got himself into a difficult position and could not back down, despite calls from Christian and world leaders for him to do so.

"He could not back down, and I felt that it's my responsibility, as the Muslim leader in central Florida, to go up to him and speak one-on-one with him and explain that he's putting American lives in danger and he should reconsider," Musri said.

Jones' announced plan to burn Qurans set off a worldwide firestorm of concern, including from U.S. military leaders who said the event -- timed to take place on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- would imperil the lives of troops abroad.

President Obama said Friday that the idea that "we would burn the sacred texts of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for."

He said he hopes Jones "prays on it" and refrains from doing it. The government has to send a "very clear message" that burning the Quran would endanger U.S. troops and serve as a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda, Obama added.

Asked about the proposed construction of the community center and mosque near New York City's ground zero, Obama said Friday that it should be possible to build a mosque anywhere that a church or synagogue could be built.

"I recognize the extraordinary sensitivities" surrounding the issue, Obama said. But "we are not at war against Islam," he said. The United States is fighting those who have "distorted Islam," and "we've got to be clear about that."

The enemy is a "tiny minority of people" who are "engaged in horrific acts" and have killed more Muslims than anyone else, Obama said. Muslims are other Americans' neighbors, friends and co-workers, he said.

A meeting may happen Monday or Tuesday between the imam in charge of the proposed Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero and Jones, Musri said Friday.

Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said it might be difficult for the parties to meet Saturday because of events planned to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Rauf said Friday in a statement that he was "prepared to consider meeting with anyone who is seriously committed to pursuing peace," but that no such meeting had been set up.

"Our plans for the community center have not changed," he said. "With the solemn day of September 11 upon us, I encourage everyone to take time for prayer and reflection."

Sporadic demonstrations broke out in Afghanistan on Friday, with hundreds gathering to protest the planned burning. The largest demonstration was in the northern province of Badakhshan, where about 500 Afghans protested outside a NATO base in the area, the International Security Assistance Force said.

The ISAF said two people were hurt in the protests. However, the deputy governor of the province said thousands of people turned out, one protester was killed and three wounded.

Jones, asked for his reaction to the Afghan casualties, said it was "absolutely terrible," but said he is not to blame.

"We're pointing the finger at the wrong person," Jones said. "I haven't even done anything. I think it reveals ... the violence in Islam. Just the mere mentioning of it, just the threat, causes them to kill people, to protest, to say they are going to kill the president. I think it is quite obvious that what we are saying is definitely, definitely true."

CNN's Rich Phillips in Gainesville, Florida; Mark J. Norman in New York; Atia Abawi and Matiullah Mati in Kabul, Afghanistan; and Maria Ebrahimji in Atlanta, Georgia, contributed to this report.