Demark warns cartoon row could spin out of control


  • World
  • Tuesday, 07 Feb 2006

By Per Bech Thomsen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark's prime minister said on Tuesday violent Muslim protests over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad were a worldwide crisis spinning out of the control of governments. 

"We're facing a growing global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of governments and other authorities," Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said as anti-Danish protests spread in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. 

Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (C) walks to a news conference in Copenhagen February 7, 2006. Denmark's prime minister said on Tuesday violent Muslim protests over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad were a worldwide crisis spinning out of the control of governments. (REUTERS/Keld Navntoft/Scanpix)

Accusing "radicals, extremist and fanatics" of fanning the flames of Muslim wrath to "push forward their own agenda", he repeated a call for dialogue with offended Muslims. 

"I want to appeal and reach out to all people and countries in the Muslim world. Let us work together in the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance," said the leader of the country which first published the cartoons. 

Although Rasmussen received a call of support from U.S. President George W. Bush and the backing of European Union allies, there was no sign of the row abating. 

U.N. peacekeepers from Norway, which has also attracted Muslim wrath after a Norwegian paper reproduced the cartoons, were attacked by mob in Afghanistan, while people and buildings from other European nations were also the object of attacks. 

Rasmussem said this showed "this is not a matter between the Muslim world and Denmark alone", but it was above all Danish embassies and flags being stoned and burnt by Muslims. 

After Denmark's Iranian embassy was attacked for a second day, Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller called Tehran to demand it protect Danish diplomats. The prime minister warned Iran it could be blocked from joining the World Trade Organisation if it carried out a threatened Danish trade boycott. 

SECURITY FEARS 

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten has apologised for the cartoons published last September and the Danish government has tried to mollify Muslims without apologising for the newspaper. The cartoonists have gone into hiding with police protection. 

Some Danes fear the row has heightened the risk of a terrorist attack in Denmark, which has 530 troops in Iraq. 

In a poll by Epinion for Danish radio, about four in 10 people said publication of the cartoons meant there was now a serious risk of an attack. More than half said the gap between Muslim and non-Muslim Danes had widened because of the cartoons. 

The cartoon row raised concerns for the safety of Danish troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq, though there are no plans to pull out. 

"We have to change the patterns of how they patrol and take precautions to make sure we don't put them in danger," Defence Minister Soren Gade told Reuters. As well as troops in Iraq, Demark plans to double its 178-strong Afghan mission this year. 

Gade also said Danish troops on U.N. peacekeeping missions in Muslim countries had changed into uniforms without the Danish flag for their own safety and aid workers in Pakistan had also removed the Danish flag from their camp. 

Heeding security advice from their government, thousands of Danes cancelled plans to travel to the Middle East and Indonesia. One major Danish company, dairy firm Arla, has sent some workers home as the result of a Middle East Danish boycott. 

Fie Sandfeld of travel agency Star Tour said a dozen clients were being evacuated from Bali and about 3,000 Danes had cancelled trips to Egypt, but those already abroad mostly wanted to stay. 

"We currently have 500 guests in Egypt and 200 in Morocco. We have offered to bring them home, but the vast majority are staying," said Sandfeld. "Only four from Egypt want to come home, otherwise we are hearing that things are calm and that they are not affected by the conflict." 

(Additional reporting by Kim McLaughlin) 

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