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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Sweden 'regrets' Prophet cartoon
Nerikes Allehanda website
Nerikes Allehanda newspaper defended publishing the cartoon
Sweden's embassy in Pakistan has expressed regret over the publication of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Swedish newspaper.

Pakistan had complained about the cartoon, which depicted the head of the Prophet on the body of a dog.

Sweden's government said it regretted any hurt but could not apologise as it was not responsible for the drawing and could not prevent its publication.

Other cartoons depicting the Prophet sparked worldwide protests last year.

Thousands of Muslims took to the streets in several countries in early 2006 in protest at the drawings, which were initially published by a Danish daily and later reproduced elsewhere.

Muslims regard any visual representation of the Prophet as blasphemous. Many Muslims also regard the dog as an impure animal.

Press freedom

The new drawing depicting the Prophet's head on the body of a dog was published in the Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda on Sunday.

The cartoon's creator, Lars Vilks, told the Associated Press news agency the drawing was art.

"I'm not against Islam. Everybody knows that," he is quoted as saying.

The publication prompted the Iranian government to complain to Swedish diplomats earlier this week.

The Pakistani foreign ministry delivered its complaint to a Swedish diplomat in Islamabad on Thursday.

A Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman said the government had "expressed regret that the publication of the cartoons had hurt the feelings of Muslims".

"We can't apologise for the cartoons because we did not publish them," spokeswoman Sofia Karlberg told the BBC News website.

Ms Karlberg said the government could not influence the publication of such cartoons because of rules concerning media freedom in the country.

Restraint urged

The Pakistani foreign ministry expressed sorrow at what it described as a growing tendency "among some Europeans to mix the freedom of expression with an outright and deliberate insult to 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide".

"Such acts deeply undermine the efforts of those who seek to promote respect and understanding among religions and civilisations," a foreign ministry statement said.

According to the Pakistani statement, the Swedish diplomat had said his government "fully shared the views of the Muslim community and termed the publication as unfortunate".

The Swedish foreign ministry told the BBC News website it could not confirm its diplomat in Islamabad had made these remarks.

A Swedish Islamic centre has planned a demonstration outside the paper's offices in the town of Orebro, the AP news agency says.

An umbrella body representing 57 Muslim nations, the Organisation of Islamic Conference, condemned the latest cartoon and urged the Swedish government to punish those responsible.

The chairman of the body also urged Muslims to remain calm and exercise restraint.

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