Pastor in Quran-burning row flying to New York

Terry Jones was going to New York to meet the imam behind Ground Zero mosque.

Gainesville: A firebrand pastor who said he had called off plans to burn the Quran in exchange for the relocation of a New York mosque was flying to New York City, a friend said.

Terry Jones was en route to New York, where he planned to meet on Saturday with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim preacher behind plans for an Islamic cultural centre near the site of the World Trade Centre destroyed in the September 11 attacks.

"Pastor Jones is not in Gainesville anymore. He is flying to New York and I myself paid his ticket and reserved a room for him tonight in New York," KA Paul, a friend of Jones, said on Friday night.

Jones said on Thursday he had suspended his plans to burn copies of the Quran after receiving a pledge that the Islamic cultural centre slated for construction near Ground Zero would be moved elsewhere.

He said he expected to fly to New York for a meeting with Abdul Rauf on on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, when Jones had planned to burn copies of the Koran.

But Abdul Rauf and others involved in the cultural centre have said they made no deal and had not arranged a meeting with Jones.

It was unclear on Friday whether Jones had subsequently been in touch with Abdul Rauf or his colleagues.

Jones` plans to torch Islam`s holy book touched off a domestic and international firestorm, with Muslims protesting in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Indonesia.

President Barack Obama and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates both called on Jones to call off the event, saying it endangered the lives of US troops stationed in Muslim countries and undermined US principles of religious tolerance.

Bureau Report