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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 22:22 GMT
Arab ministers condemn cartoons
Iraqi children walk over a Danish flag drawn on the ground
The cartoons have sparked outrage across the Middle East
Arab ministers have urged Denmark to punish a newspaper which printed cartoons that offended Muslims.

Ministers from 17 Arab countries criticised the "offence to Islam" and called on the Danish government to ensure this would not happen again.

The newspaper published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, some of which depicted him as a terrorist.

The cartoons have caused outrage in the Muslim world, where depictions of the Prophet Muhammad or Allah are banned.

Anger against Denmark has grown in the Middle East, despite an apology by the newspaper.

'Offence to Islam'

Ministers from 17 Arab countries issued the statement after a two-day meeting in Tunis to strengthen co-operation against terrorism.

CARTOON ROW
Gunmen at the Gaza City office of the EU
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
"The council of Arab interior ministers strongly denounce the offence to Islam and the prophet published in the Danish press and ask the Danish government to firmly punish the authors of these offences," the statement said.

Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, who attended the meeting, criticised the European press.

"Why do they talk about democracy and freedom of expression just when the issue concerns Islam?" he asked. "If it concerns other religions the facts will change."

On Tuesday the offices of the newspaper that published the caricatures, Jyllands-Posten, were evacuated because of a bomb threat but later give the all-clear.

A day earlier Jyllands-Posten apologised for offending Muslims.

Flag burned

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

"The Danish government cannot apologise on behalf of a Danish newspaper. Independent media are not edited by the government," he said.

The backlash has included diplomatic sanctions and threats from Islamic militants.

In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians protested against Denmark on Tuesday.

Demonstrators burnt the Danish flag 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.

On Tuesday the Iraqi foreign minister summoned the Danish envoy to condemn the cartoons.

The BBC's Arab affairs analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi, says the row highlights the huge gap between Western liberal values and the religious outlook of Middle Eastern societies.


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