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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 18:43 GMT
Mass anti-cartoon rally in Beirut
Tens of thousands of Shia Muslims in Beirut turn an Ashura rally into a protest
Tens of thousands of Shia Muslims held a peaceful protest in Beirut
Hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims in Lebanon have turned a religious ceremony into a protest over cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

The leader of the Hezbollah militant group told the crowd demonstrations must continue until Europe passed laws banning insults to Muhammad.

Thousands took part in marches in Cape Town, South Africa, and Bangladesh.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan criticised editors who continued to print the cartoons despite the furore.

"It is insensitive, it is offensive, it is provocative, and they should see what has happened around the world," he said.

Mr Annan said he supported freedom of speech but it entailed "exercising responsibility and judgement".

The satirical cartoons - which have been denounced throughout the Islamic world - include an image portraying Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. Islamic tradition explicitly prohibits any depiction of Allah and the Prophet.

In other developments:

  • Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen tells an English-language Arab newspaper that the caricatures were not intended as an attack on Muslims

  • Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who wrote the script of a controversial film on Islam that led to the murder of director Theo Van Gogh, says she believes journalists have been right to publish the cartoons

  • Iranian Vice-President Isfandiar Rahim Mashaee rejects Ms Rice's accusation his country was guilty of inflaming the furore as "100% a lie"

  • South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki appeals for tolerance and mutual respect as thousands of Muslims rally in Cape Town.

Security implications

The Malaysian government shut down indefinitely a Borneo-based paper, the Sarawak Tribune, after it reprinted the cartoons on Saturday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi described their publication as "insensitive and irresponsible". The paper had apologised for what it called an editorial oversight.

30 Sept 2005: Danish paper publishes cartoons
20 Oct: Muslim ambassadors complain to Danish PM
10 Jan 2006: 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
4 Feb: Syrians attack Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus
5 Feb: Protesters set alight Danish embassy in Beirut
6-7 Feb: At least eight killed in Afghanistan as security forces try to suppress violent protests

Papers in several European countries have also reprinted the images, first published in a Danish newspaper last September and most recently carried in French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

NATO defence ministers are meeting in Brussels to consider the security implications of the controversy.

It follows attacks on NATO troops in Afghanistan and on Danish embassies in Beirut and Damascus.

A dozen people have died in violent protests in Afghanistan over recent days, some as they tried to march on a US military base.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told Shia Muslims gathered in Beirut to mark the annual Ashura mourning ceremony that there could be "no compromise before we get an apology".

"We want European parliament to draft laws that ban newspapers from insulting the Prophet," he said.

He criticised US President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over their claim that Iran and Syria had exploited the row over the cartoons to fuel anti-Western feeling.

"The protests must be pursued everywhere. Bush and Rice must shut up and we tell them that we will not forgive those who offend our Prophet," he said.

European papers have defended their decisions to publish on free speech grounds.

EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini called on media across the European Union to adopt a voluntary code of conduct to prevent such rows in the future.

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