Beyond belief: Koran-burning called off -- in exchange for moving Ground Zero mosque; Update: No deal? Update: Fred Phelps now planning to burn the Koran instead; Update: We're not here to barter, says Rauf

This otherwise slow news day sure turned interesting in a hurry, huh?

The pastor planning to burn Qurans on the Sept. 11 anniversary said Thursday that he plans to call off the event if the Muslim group seeking to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site agrees to move the project.

“We would consider that a sign from God,” the Rev. Terry Jones told reporters.

It was unclear whether such a commitment from the Muslim group was forthcoming, though some reports said Jones and the leader of the mosque project had spoken earlier Thursday.

“I have his word that he will move the mosque to a different location,” Jones said.

He says he’s on his way to NYC to meet with “officials” behind Park51. Whether that means Feisal Rauf or the owners of the property is unclear, but just as I’m writing this, news is breaking that Rauf says there’s no deal at all. Maybe there’s a split inside the Park51 leadership? Or is this mega-clusterfark about to go super-mega?

Stand by for updates, needless to say, but two thoughts while we wait. One: How can Rauf sign off on moving the mosque when he said just last night that jihadis would freak out if they did so? Maybe the thinking is that Jones’s concession on burning the Koran is enough to placate them? Two: Is this a fair trade — one First Amendment exercise in exchange for another? The two aren’t perfectly symmetrical, as I explained yesterday.

Update: Here’s Jones claiming that it was the imam, i.e. Rauf, who agreed to move the mosque. But, as noted above, Rauf is reportedly claiming that he made no such deal. Looks like we’re in super-mega territory after all. Click the image to watch.

Update: Turns out Rauf wasn’t the imam he spoke to, it was another imam. What could go wrong?

Jones said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida told him that officials would guarantee that the mosque would be moved.

“I asked him three times, and I have witnesses,” Jones said. “If it’s not moved, then I think Islam is a very poor example of religion. I think that would be very pitiful. I do not expect that.”

Update: Now that we’ve officially got a Category 5 super-mega media clusterfark on our hands, Donald Trump wants in on the action: Here’s a story about him offering to buy the Park51 space at 25 percent above cost in order to end this “serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation.” (Remember, the principal owner told the AP yesterday that he didn’t care what happened to the property so long as he made a buck on it.) All we need now for this story to achieve pure PR nirvana is for the “Jersey Shore” cast to somehow get involved.

Update: As quickly as it was offered, Trump’s bid is rejected. The lawyer for Park51’s lawyer calls it “just a cheap attempt to get publicity and get in the limelight.”

Update: My goodness — it’s the media storm of the century!

Westboro Baptist Church, the small Topeka, Kan., church that pickets funerals of American soldiers to spread its message that God is punishing the country for being tolerant of homosexuals, has vowed to hold a Quran burning if Gainesville’s Dove World Outreach Center calls its off.

“WBC burned the Koran once – and if you sissy brats of Doomed america bully Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center until they change their plans to burn that blasphemous tripe called the Koran, then WBC will burn it (again), to clearly show you some things,” the church announced in a news release this week.

What I think will happen here is that Jones will go to New York, Rauf will agree to meet with him in the interest of “dialogue” and reducing tensions, and the interfaith meeting of the minds will convince Jones not to go ahead with the book-burning. But will there be any sort of concession vis-a-vis the GZM?

Update: Mediaite speculates that this is all a clever ruse concocted by Jones to pressure the Park51 group into moving the mosque, which he’ll then happily take credit for. Just one problem with that theory, though — namely, Imam al-Masri. He appeared with Jones at the presser and claims to have spoken with Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, about moving the mosque. Is he in on the ruse too?

Here’s Rauf’s official statement, by the way:

“I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans,” Rauf said. “However, I have not spoken with Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement.”

“We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we here to barter. We are here to extend our hand to build peace and harmony,” he said.

Maybe he hasn’t spoken to his wife yet?

Update: As expected, the administration made a personal appeal to Jones to stand down. The lucky cabinet member to whom the phone call was tasked? Bob Gates, who reiterated the point about not endangering the troops. No word on what Jones’s response was.