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Pentagon weighs call to try to dissuade pastor from burning Korans

The Pentagon's top spokesman suggested Thursday that a senior official from the Defense Department might call the Florida pastor who has threatened to burn Korans this Saturday and strongly urge him to abandon his plans.

In recent days, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gen. David H. Petraeus have spoken out forcefully to say that the Koran burning would put the lives of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk. A personal call from the Obama administration to the obscure pastor demonstrates how quickly a marginal figure can vault himself to international promience.

Terry Jones, the pastor, told reporters that he might drop plans to burn the Korans if someone from the Pentagon, State Department or Obama administration called him personally to urge him to change course. The fact that senior administration officials are even considering a personal call to Jones shows how deeply concerned they are by the actions of the pastor, who oversees a church of only 50 people.

No final decisions have been made on whether someone from the Pentagon would call Jones, but the "possibility is currently under discussion within the administration," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman. Asked directly whether Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates might call Jones, Morrell said that there would be "a collective judgement made about who the best person is."

The mere threat by Jones to burn Korans has already drawn protests in Afghanistan. Calling Jones directly would give the attention-seeking pastor added prominence and could potentially encourage others to try to grab attention for themselves in similar fashion, Morrell said. But Morrell added that a personal phone call might be worth the cost if it derails Jones' plans. "The potential ripple effect here is very real," Morrell said of the Koran burning.

-- Peter Finn

By Peter Finn  | September 9, 2010; 3:29 PM ET
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