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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 January 2006, 00:44 GMT
Danish firm seeks Muslim row end
Protest over cartoons in Copenhagen
The row could develop into a serious diplomatic incident
The Danish company Arla has placed advertisements in Middle Eastern newspapers to try to stop a boycott of Danish produce in Muslim countries.

The firm is responding to anger about a series of caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

A spokesman said Arla was facing consumer pressure to dissociate itself from the cartoons.

The paper apologised for any offence caused, but said it was testing the boundaries of expression about Islam.

Arla Foods, one of Europe's largest dairy producers, said earlier in the week that its customers in Saudi Arabia appeared to have stopped selling its dairy produce and had begun a boycott of Danish goods.

Finn Hansen, a divisional director with Arla, on Thursday told the website of Jyllands-Posten - the newspaper that printed the caricatures: "We fear that we will be hit by a wave of consumer anger."

On the same day, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Denmark was recalled for consultations.

'Not good enough'

The dispute began when Jyllands-Posten last September published 12 caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, depicting him as a stereotypical Islamic terrorist.

Ten Muslim ambassadors wrote a joint letter to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen asking him to take a stance on the issue, which he refused to do.

He said Denmark had a free and independent press and refused to intervene.

But the BBC's Julian Isherwood in Copenhagen says that has not been good enough for the Muslim countries and particularly Saudi Arabia, and there are now fears that the incident could affect Danish businesses.

The Confederation of Danish Industries has now appealed to Jyllands-Posten to print an apology for having commissioned the drawings.

In fact the newspaper has already apologised for, as it has said, wounding the sensitivities of Muslims, but at the same time maintaining its right to print what it likes.

Mr Rasmussen, too, fell just short of an apology in his New Year's speech, speaking of responsibility in exercising freedoms of speech.

Neither semi-apologies seem to have been accepted, our correspondent says, in a Muslim world which sees any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous.

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