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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 16:54 GMT
Envoys meet as Muslim anger grows
Protesters in Baghdad
Anti-Danish protests have been staged in Baghdad and other cities
Muslims have staged fresh protests in the row over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, as Denmark - where the row started - made a new bid to calm anger.

Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen called in Muslim ambassadors to explain his position over the images' publication.

He said he could never apologise for a newspaper's actions but said he was "distressed" at offence caused.

The cartoons, some of which depict the Prophet as a terrorist, have angered Muslims who regard them as blasphemous.

However, more European papers have printed the cartoons, citing free speech.

Jakarta protest

Mr Rasmussen met ambassadors in Copenhagen on Friday - something he had refused to do when the matter arose after the cartoons first appeared in September.

Afterwards he said: "Neither the Danish government nor the Danish nation as such can be held responsible for drawings published in a Danish newspaper.

CARTOON ROW
French daily newspaper France Soir open on cartoon page
30 Sept: Danish paper publishes cartoons
20 Oct: Muslim ambassadors complain to Danish PM
10 Jan: Norwegian publication reprints cartoons
26 Jan: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador
30 Jan: Gunmen raid EU's Gaza office demanding apology
31 Jan: Danish paper apologises
1 Feb: Papers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain reprint cartoons

"A Danish government can never apologise on behalf of a free and independent newspaper. This is basically a dispute between some Muslims and a newspaper."

He has said the issue has gone beyond Denmark to become a clash between Western free speech and Islamic taboos.

Fresh Muslim protests flared on Friday in a number of countries over the cartoons, one of which shows the Prophet wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb.

Another shows him saying that paradise is running short of virgins for suicide bombers.

Islamic tradition bans depictions of the Prophet or Allah.

In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, dozens of protesters from the Islamic Defenders' Front forced their way into a high-rise building housing the Danish embassy.

Demonstrators were prevented from reaching the embassy itself, on the 25th floor.

The incident happened after an Indonesian newspaper posted the cartoons on its website. It was later forced to take them down.

There were other protests in Iraq, Egypt and the Turkish cities of Diyarbakir, Konya and Istanbul.

However, other European newspapers have now printed the cartoons.

French daily Liberation and Belgian paper De Standaard published them, along with the Irish Daily Star, which called Muslim protests "entirely unwarranted and hateful".

In other developments:

  • Iraq's top Shia Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani condemned the publication, but said militant Islamists were partly to blame for distorting the image of Islam

  • Palestinians protested in Ramallah on the West Bank, shouting: "The assault on the Prophet is an assault on Islam"

  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for Muslims to be forgiving, saying the cartoons should not cause a dispute between cultures

  • The Pakistani upper house of parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the cartoons

  • French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the Muslim protests were "unacceptable" but also criticises the cartoons

  • Vatican cardinal Achille Silvestrini condemned the cartoons, saying Western culture had to know its limits.



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