The Florida pastor who had planned to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday has called it off.
The Rev. Terry Jones of the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center made the announcement Thursday.
Earlier Thursday, President Obama said Jones' plan, which had triggered worldwide controversy, would be a "recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda."
"You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan" as a result of the proposal by Jones, 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."
Jones had previously said he would proceed with the plan Saturday -- the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- despite increased pressure to abandon the proposal and warnings that going ahead could endanger U.S. troops and Americans worldwide.
There were several developments prior to Jones' cancellation announcement:
-- Local governments said they were going to bill Jones for the extra cost of security for Saturday's event.
-- Interpol on Thursday issued a global alert to its 188 member countries, warning of a "strong likelihood" of violent attacks if the Quran burning proceeds.
-- An armed Christian organization, which withdrew its support for the Quran-burning event last month, said the administration "needs to stay out of this" and pledged to defend the Dove Center's right to hold the event, despite its disagreement.
-- The FBI warned local law enforcement that the plan, along with other recent controversies involving the American Muslim community, could lead to hate crimes and could encourage extremist rhetoric, although a federal law enforcement official said there was no credible information that attacks were planned.
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.
Discussions were taking place within the Obama administration about the possibility of intervening, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Thursday. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the possibility of calling Jones is under consideration, and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was participating in the discussions.
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 has 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." "We are burning the book. We are not killing someone. We are not murdering people."
Meanwhile, Obama told ABC, "As commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan. We're already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat ... this is a destructive act that he's engaging in."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group, announced an initiative called "Learn, Don't Burn" on Thursday and will distribute Qurans to replace the burned copies.
Awad said the group is concerned that the plan may lead to hate crimes against Muslims. Cross burnings by the Ku Klux Klan were an indication of hate crimes to follow against African-Americans, he said, and Nazis started with burning books and "ended up burning people."
CAIR has been working with attorneys, and no basis has been found to stop the burnings under the law, he said, but he added that if the plan is going to incite violence, the government should step in.
"I can assure you that on September 11, you will not see a bonfire of Qurans being burned at the Dove Church," Imam Mahdi Bray, head of the Muslim-American Society, told reporters.
He said he has just returned from Gainesville, where city officials told him Jones will not receive a burn permit and any sort of incendiary material will violate the city code. A fire truck will be nearby to douse any flames, he said.
Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe said Jones' requests for burn permits have been denied, and city officials hope that he will comply. If he breaks the law, action can be taken against Jones, with the response based on whatever the infraction might be, he said. Lowe has declared Saturday "Interfaith Solidarity Day."
City Communications Manager Bob Woods said the city will tally up costs related to the event and present Jones with the bill.
Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesman Art Forgey said "we do plan to compile and send a bill to Mr. Jones."
"I don't know that we have the teeth to enforce it, though," Forgey added. Instead, the bill may just end up being a statement to Jones about how much the event cost local citizens, the spokesman said.
Before Jones announced the cancellation, the Gainesville Students for a Democratic Society said Thursday it would bus in students from as far away as Chicago, Illinois, and would have about 600 on hand Saturday to protest at a nearby park, then march to the church to picket the event.
Meanwhile, two websites associated with Jones and his church were down Thursday.
Rackspace Hosting took down the two sites because the church "violated the hate speech provision of our acceptable use policy," spokesman Dan Goodgame said.
The company investigated a complaint in the past couple days and made the determination after reviewing both sites, said Goodgame, adding that Rackspace was under no pressure to act.
"This is not a constitutional issue. This is a contract issue," he said.
Rackspace gave Jones until midnight Wednesday to migrate content and find another host. Goodgame said he did not know how long Rackspace had hosted the websites, but he said it did not handle design or content.
"We have about 100,000 customers," Goodgame said. "We don't even know what all the sites are."
Jones and Dove World had agreed to terms on the Rackspace Cloud service, Goodgame said. The policy dictates the suspension or termination of service for offensive content, including material that is "excessively violent, incites violence, threatens violence or contains harassing content or hate speech."
"We would have taken the same position if it was hate speech against Christians or other groups," he added.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is one of the few public officials who defended Jones' right to go ahead with the burning, even as he condemned the idea as "distasteful."
"The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can't say that we are going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement," Bloomberg said, citing the section of the Constitution that promises freedom of speech.
The U.S. State Department issued a global travel alert because of the potential for anti-American demonstrations if the Quran burning were to have been carried out.