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Bush urges end to violence over cartoons

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 2:38 pm    Post subject: Bush urges end to violence over cartoons Reply with quote

Bush urges end to violence over cartoons
Danish PM: Muslim world has 'false picture' of country

Wednesday, February 8, 2006; Posted: 1:31 p.m. EST (18:31 GMT)

President Bush: "Reject violence as a way to express discontent."
Manage Alerts | What Is This? (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has urged governments around the world to help end the deadly violence sparked by protests over publication of cartoons depicting the Islamic Prophet Mohammed.

The death toll from this week's violent demonstrations rose to at least 10 on Wednesday after Afghan police shot dead several protesters trying to storm a U.S. military base.

At least 700 people demonstrated peacefully in Baquba, Iraq, while in southern Afghanistan, five people died in violent riots over the cartoons.

Also Wednesday Denmark's prime minister, saying the Muslim world had "a false picture" of his country, defended it in amid the intensifying protests over the cartoons, which were first published in a Danish newspaper.

The cartoons have prompted boycotts of Danish goods throughout the Muslim world. In Dubai, travel agents said travelers were not booking flights to Denmark or Norway, where the cartoons were also published.

One of the cartoons showed Mohammed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb. Any depiction of the prophet is forbidden in Islam.

Bush, who met Jordan's King Abdullah II on Wednesday morning, urged leaders in affected nations to step in.

"I call upon the governments around the world to stop the violence, to be respectful, to protect property and protect the lives of innocent diplomats who are serving their countries overseas," Bush said, referring to the attacks on Danish and other European embassies in several capitals.

Bush said he and the king "reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in a free press."

King Abdullah said anything that "vilifies the prophet Mohammed ... or attacks Muslim sensibilities needs to be condemned," but those who choose to protest should do it "thoughtfully, articulately, express their views peacefully."

"When we see protests and destruction, when we see violence -- especially when it ends up taking the lives of innocent people -- it's completely unacceptable," he said. "Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, is a religion of peace, tolerance, moderation."

The Iraqi demonstration, organized by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr's office, demanded an apology to all Muslims from the Danish government.

But Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said his government had nothing to apologize for.

"I think everybody should realize that neither the Danish government nor the Danish people can be held responsible for what is published in a free and independent newspaper," he told CNN.

Anyone seeking redress should turn to the courts, he said. "We do have legislation which sets certain limitations on the freedom of expression." He cited "racist and blasphemous" expressions as among those not allowed.

"It's up to the courts to decide whether the law had been infringed; it's not up to the government."

The cartoons were originally published in September in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. But protests against the government itself have gained in intensity in recent days after the reprinting of the caricatures in other publications.

Denmark, Rasmussen said, is not getting a fair shake. "We are portrayed as a society which is intolerant and an enemy of Islam, and it's a false picture."

Such messages -- often spread via Web logs and on cell phone messages -- have been difficult to counter, he said.

"It's really a war taking place in cyberspace, and we're not used to it."

French President Jacques Chirac asked media Wednesday to avoid offending religious beliefs as a French newspaper reprinted caricatures of the prophet.

Chirac said during a Cabinet meeting that he condemned "obvious provocations" likely to kindle passions.

"Everything that can offend the convictions of others -- religious convictions in particular -- must be avoided," the French president said in remarks quoted by government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope.

Latest violence
The Afghan casualties took place in Qalat, the capital of the southern province of Zabul, and one of dead might be a police officer, eyewitnesses said. The provincial capital of Qalat is currently closed to all traffic.

Six hundred rioters tried to storm a police station and get into a U.S. base.

Zabul is in the heartland of the Afghan insurgency, where there has been a high level of support for the Taliban -- the militants that ruled Afghanistan and harbored the al Qaeda network before the regime ousted by a U.S.-led invasion after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

There were demonstrations in the Afghan capital of Kabul as well, and the Grand Ulama Council, a top Muslim organization, has urged people to stop rioting.

Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, also urged an end to the violent protests and called for a balance between free expression and respect for religious and cultural differences.

"The press should decide in a responsible way what it publishes," he said. "Although states might not subscribe to the content of media publications, it is not up to governments to influence the content of the press.

"The nature of the content of these cartoons, however, cannot and does not legitimize violence."

Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, said he did not believe there was "a direct linkage" between the publication of the cartoons in September and the eruption of protests this month. (Watch editor's interview with CNN -- 5:05)

"Only after a group of radical Danish imams traveled to the Middle East in December and January, deliberately lying about the situation ... trying to ignite public opinion against Denmark, did all these tragic events start to unfold," he said.

"I think it is a tragedy," he said. "And I do think these cartoons are not worth a single human life."

Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said he disagreed with the publication of the cartoons, saying they served "absolutely no purpose but playing into the hands of the religious extremists."

"What is happening now and all over the world is the extremists are making use of this and stirring up the masses to react against the Western interests and actually against the good reputation of Islam as a religion, of Muslims as a people, as a peaceful people, and people believing in freedom of speech," he told CNN.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went a step further, accusing the governments of Iran and Syria of fomenting the violence.

"Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes, and the world ought to call them on it," she said at a joint news conference with Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni.

Meanwhile, a university professor in the United Arab Emirates lost her job because she distributed copies of the cartoons to her students.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahan, UAE minister of education and chancellor of Zayed University ordered Clauda Keepoz dismissed because "her behavior has nothing to do with the freedom of expression."

CNN is not showing the negative caricatures of the likeness of Prophet Mohammed because the network believes its role is to cover the events surrounding the publication of the cartoons while not unnecessarily adding fuel to the controversy itself.

CNN Producer Syed Mohsin Naqvi and Journalist Tom Coghlan contributed to this report
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