The Vatican says plans by a small American evangelical church to burn copies of the Quran on September 11 would be an "outrageous and grave gesture."
A Vatican council on interreligious dialogue said Wednesday all religions have the right to respect and protection regarding their sacred books, places of worship and symbols. The council said "deplorable acts of violence" such as the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. cannot be counteracted by other acts of hatred.
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also condemned plans by the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida to burn the Quran.
The church's pastor, Terry Jones, says he takes seriously the warnings about possible violence against Americans abroad. Jones, however, says he and his followers plan to proceed with the protest, which would coincide with the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen have warned the act could endanger Western troops. General Petraeus said the Quran burning could be exploited by the Taliban for propaganda purposes.
The dispute comes at a time of already heated debate in the United States over a proposal to build a mosque and cultural center near the site in New York City of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Obama administration officials say Pastor Jones and his followers are within their constitutional rights to burn a Quran, just as U.S. anti-war protesters have burned American flags at demonstrations in the past. The Florida church has been denied a local government permit to set a fire for the burning of the Quran but vows to go ahead with it.
The planned burning has sparked protests in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where protesters Monday chanted "Death to America" as they rallied outside a mosque. Iran has warned the planned Quran burning could lead to uncontrolled emotions in Muslim countries.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.