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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 February 2006, 08:01 GMT
Annan urges calm in cartoon row
Kofi Annan
Mr Annan says freedom of speech comes with responsibility
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for calm in a row over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that has seen protests erupt across the Muslim world.

Mr Annan said he shared the distress of Muslims upset by the cartoons but urged them to accept an apology from the Danish paper that first published them.

The paper's editor has told the BBC his intention was to show Muslims they were not exempt from satire.

Islamic tradition regards any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad as blasphemous.

'Great damage'

Kofi Annan said he was "distressed and concerned at the whole affair" and appealed for no-one to "inflame an already difficult situation".

CARTOON ROW
Indonesian protesters
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

"I share the distress of the Muslim friends who feel that the cartoon offends their religion," he said.

"I also respect the right of freedom of speech. But of course freedom of speech is never absolute. It entails responsibility and judgment."

Fleming Rose, editor of the newspaper that first published the pictures, and the Muslim cleric who has led protests in Scandinavia, Ahmed Abu Laban, met on BBC News 24's Hardtalk programme.

Mr Rose, of Jyllands-Posten, told the programme Denmark had a "tradition of satire and humour" which included satirising anyone from the royal family to Jesus Christ.

"By publishing these cartoons, we are saying to the Muslim community in Denmark 'we treat you as we treat everybody else'."

Ahmed Abu Laban admitted violent protests would cause "great damage" to Islam.

He added: "I swear in the name of God, I will use everything in my capacity that no violence should come and spread to Scandinavia."

'Distress'

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.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told diplomats from Muslim countries at a meeting in Copenhagen he was "distressed" at the offence caused, but could not apologise over the actions of a newspaper.

There have been protests in countries including Indonesia, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt.

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".


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