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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 12:55 GMT
France enters Muslim cartoon row
Iraqis protest over the Danish cartoons
The cartoons have already sparked protest across the Arab world
A French newspaper has reproduced a set of Danish caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad that have caused outrage in the Muslim world.

France Soir said it had published the cartoons to show that "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society.

Their publication in Denmark has led to protests in several Arab nations.

Responding to France Soir's move, the French government said it supported press freedom - but added that beliefs and religions must be respected.

Islamic tradition bans depictions of the Prophet Muhammad or Allah.

Under the headline "Yes, we have the right to caricature God", France Soir ran a front page cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud.

It shows the Christian deity saying: "Don't complain, Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."

The full set of Danish drawings, some of which depict the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, were printed on the inside pages.

Bomb threat

The paper said it had decided to republish them "because no religious dogma can impose itself on a democratic and secular society".

The global controversy the cartoons have provoked "has done nothing to maintain balance and mutual limits in democracy, respect of religious beliefs and freedom of expression", it added.

Gunmen at the Gaza City office of the EU
1 Feb: French paper Paris Soir reprints the cartoons
31 Jan: Danish paper apologises
30 Jan: Gunmen raid EU's Gaza office (pictured)
29 Jan: Libya says it will close its embassy in Denmark
28 Jan: Danish company Arla places advertisements in Mid-East newspapers trying to stop a boycott
26 Jan: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador
20 Jan: Muslim ambassadors in Denmark complain to Danish PM

In a statement, the French foreign ministry said the decision to publish the pictures was the sole responsibility of France Soir.

The French authorities supported the principle of press freedom, the statement said, adding that that freedom must be exercised "in a spirit of tolerance and with respect for beliefs and religions".

The offices of the Danish newspaper that first published the caricatures, Jyllands-Posten, had to be evacuated on Tuesday because of a bomb threat.

The paper had apologised a day earlier for causing offence to Muslims, although it maintained it was legal under Danish law to print them.

Ministers from 17 Arab countries on Tuesday urged Denmark's government to punish Jyllands-Posten for what they described as an "offence to Islam".

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the paper's apology but defended the freedom of the press.

The images' publication in Denmark has provoked diplomatic sanctions and threats from Islamic militants across the Muslim world.

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated this week in the Gaza Strip, burning Danish flags and portraits of the Danish prime minister.

Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador to Denmark, while Libya said it was closing its embassy in Copenhagen and Iraq summoned the Danish envoy to condemn the cartoons.

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