GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy said today he was determined to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, despite pressure from the White House, religious leaders and others to call it off.

Pastor Terry Jones said at a press conference that he has received a lot of encouragement for his protest, with supporters mailing copies of the Islamic holy text to his Gainesville church of about 50 followers. The plan is to incinerate the Qurans in a bonfire Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11.

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

Jones said previously he has received more than 100 death threats and has started carrying a .40-caliber pistol since announcing his plan to burn the book Muslims consider the word of God and insist be treated with the utmost respect. The 58-year-old minister proclaimed in July that he would stage “International Burn-a-Quran Day.”

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Kabul, took the rare step of a military leader taking a position on a domestic matter when he warned in an e-mail to The Associated Press that “images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”

Petraeus spoke today with Afghan President Karzai about the matter, according to a military spokesman Col. Erik Gunhus. “They both agreed that burning of a Quran would undermine our effort in Afghanistan, jeopardize the safety of coalition troopers and civilians,” Gunhus said, and would “create problems for our Afghan partners … as it likely would be Afghan police and soldiers who would have to deal with any large demonstrations.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the pastor’s plans were outrageous and urged Jones to cancel the event.

“It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world’s attention, but that’s the world we live in right now,” Clinton said in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations. “It is unfortunate, it is not who we are,” she said.

Jones’ actions likely would be protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that speech deemed offensive to many people, even the majority of people, cannot be suppressed by the government unless it is clearly directed to intimidate someone or amounts to an incitement to violence, legal experts said.

The Vatican denounced the planned Quran burning as “outrageous and grave.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder during a meeting Tuesday with religious leaders to discuss recent attacks on Muslims and mosques around the U.S. called the planned burning idiotic and dangerous, according to a Justice Department official. The official requested anonymity because the meeting was private.

David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Barack Obama told CNN this morning: “The reverend may have the right to do what he’s doing but it’s not right. It’s not consistent with our values … I hope that his conscience and his good sense will take hold.”

Staffan de Mistura, head of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, expressed concern and outrage “in the strongest possible terms,” and added, “If such an abhorrent act were to be implemented, it would only contribute to fueling the arguments of those who are indeed against peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

Gainesville’s new mayor, Craig Lowe, who during his campaign became the target of a Jones-led protest because he is openly gay, has declared Sept. 11 Interfaith Solidarity Day in the city.

Muslims consider the Quran along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad to be sacred. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect Quran is deeply offensive.