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Obama says Quran burning is 'recruitment bonanza' for al Qaeda

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama says there could be serious violence in Pakistan or Afghanistan
  • Obama: It could increase the recruitment of suicide bombers in America or Europe
  • The pastor's plans are 'completely contrary' to American values, Obama says

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama on Thursday said a Florida church's plans to burn dozens of Qurans this weekend would be a "recruitment bonanza" for al Qaeda.

"You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan," Obama told 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."

Obama said he hoped the pastor, Terry Jones, understands that the planned burning is a "destructive act" that may have a dangerous fallout.

"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 of it," Obama said.

His comments came amid increasing international condemnation of the planned event on September 11 with the Presidents of Indonesia and Pakistan voicing their disapproval.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to stop a Florida church that said it will burn copies of the Quran.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari expressed grave concern over the threats to burn copies of the Quran.

Terry Jones, the head of a small church in Gainesville, Florida, says he will go ahead with plans to burn Qurans on Saturday, to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In his letter to Obama, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged him "to ensure that this hideous act is not carried out," said Teuku Faizasyah, a presidential spokesman.

"It's a very dangerous situation and we are very concerned," Faizasyah said.

Indonesia, which has a population of 230 million and is the world's most populous Muslim state, is worried that burning the Muslim holy book would incite hardline Muslims in Indonesia and around the world, Faizasyah said.

Similar concerns are being echoed in Pakistan where there has been growing anger at the planned burning.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said anyone who thought of such a despicable act must be suffering from a diseased mind and a sickly soul, said spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

Zardari said it will inflame sentiments among Muslims throughout the world and cause irreparable damage to interfaith harmony and world peace.

Also on Thursday Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik called on Interpol, the international police organization, to stop the church from carrying out its plan to burn the Quran.

Meanwhile hardline Indonesian Muslims are threatening retaliation. The Islamic Defenders Front, told CNN it will protest the planned burning and will issue a death sentence on Terry Jones, if he carries out his plan.

There is also increasing opposition to the planned event in the U.S. amid increased warnings that doing so could endanger U.S. troops and Americans worldwide.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the planned burning.

Speaking Tuesday at an iftar meal in Washington to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Clinton said: "I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths ... as well as secular U.S. leaders and opinion makers."

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.

In response Jones said: "We are burning the book, we are not killing someone. We are not murdering people."

CNN's Kathy Quiano contributed to this report.

 
 
 
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