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Stephen Harper condemns Koran burning: 'My Christ is a tolerant God'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper waits to speak at a Conservative rally at Royal Roads University in Victoria on Sept. 8, 2010.

GEOFF HOWE/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has used his Christian faith to "unequivocally condemn" a Florida church that plans to burn 200 copies of the Muslim holy book.

"I don't speak very often about my own religion, but let me be very clear: My God and my Christ is a tolerant God, and that's what we want to see in this world," he said.

Mr. Harper was adding his voice to the global outcry against a Florida preacher who plans to burn copies of the Koran in a bonfire Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Rev. Terry Jones, of the tiny Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., told a news conference Wednesday that he's received a lot of encouragement for his protest, with supporters mailing copies of the Islamic holy text to his church, which has about 50 followers.

"As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing," said Rev. Jones, who took no questions.

But Mr. Harper was direct in his denunciation.

"I unequivocally condemn it," he said. "We all enjoy freedom of religion and that freedom of religion comes from a tolerant spirit."

"I don't think that's the way you treat other faiths, as different as those faiths may be from your own."

Rev. Jones has been under intense pressure from the White House and religious leaders to call off his plan to burn the holy books, but so far he's shown no signs of backing down.

Rev. Jones has said he's received more than 100 death threats and now wears a .40-calibre pistol strapped to his hip after announcing his plan to burn a book that's at the heart of the Islamic faith and that Muslims insist must be treated with the utmost respect.

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Gen. Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Kabul, took the rare step of commenting on a domestic matter when he warned that "images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around the world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence."

Gen. Petraeus spoke Wednesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the matter, according to military spokesman Colonel Erik Gunhus.

"They both agreed that burning of a Koran would undermine our effort in Afghanistan, jeopardize the safety of coalition troopers and civilians," Col. Gunhus said.

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