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Obama request could halt Koran burning

Afghan people in Kabul protesting the burning of the Koran, chanting "Down with the United States"
Afghan people in Kabul protesting the burning of the Koran, chanting "Down with the United States" Reuters

A Florida pastor who sparked global outrage over plans to burn hundreds of copies of the Koran said Thursday he would likely call off the event if asked to by the Obama administration. His statement comes as world leaders line up to condemn the event.

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Head of the Dove World Outreach Centre, Terry Jones, said he had not been contacted by the White House, Pentagon or State Department about Saturday's planned ceremony on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

If he were "that would cause us definitely to think it over. That's what we're doing now. I don't think a call from them is something we would ignore," Jones said.

US authorities have said there is little they can do to stop the event from going ahead, as it is protected by the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech.

The pastor said the aim of Saturday's event in Gainesville, Florida, was to send a message to radical Islamists that it is possibly time for a new approach. This could mean actually standing up and confronting terrorism.

US President Barack Obama on Thursday warned the burning ceremony would be a "recruitment bonanza" for Al-Qaeda, causing an increase in the number of candidates stepping forward to carry out suicide attacks in US as well as European cities.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also condemned the plans as "disgraceful," while military leaders have warned it could endanger troops serving in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both Muslim countries.

Germany and Canada expressed similar concerns for their own respective contingents.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned that the event may be used "as a pretext by the extremists to carry out more killings" and would “damage relations among religions and dialogue and cultural relations between nations”.

"Those who committed the crime of September 11 have nothing to do with Islam," he said.

Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim majority country in the world, also warned of the impact between the Muslim world and the West in a letter by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to his US counterpart Barack Obama.

India, which has the world's third largest Muslim population, called on the US authorities to take "strong action".

France's foreign ministry condemned what it called an "incitement to hatred" of Muslims, and "an insult to the memory of the victims of September 11."

British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said he "strongly opposed" any attempt to offend members of a religious group while former premier Tony Blair described the planned torching as "disrespectful".

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