February 1, 2006

Bomb hoax forces Danes to evacuate embassy in Syria

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - A telephoned bomb threat against the
Danish embassy in Damascus forced staff to evacuate the
building on Wednesday while security personnel cordoned off
streets and searched the complex, witnesses said.

A diplomatic storm has blown up over cartoons deemed
offensive to Islam and the Prophet Mohammad that were published
in a Danish newspaper in September and republished in Norway
last month and in the French paper France Soir on Wednesday.

No bomb was found and staff were allowed to return to the
embassy after an hour, the witnesses said. The embassy had no
immediate comment on the incident.

Earlier this week the Syrian Foreign Ministry condemned the
cartoons as an offence to Muslims and Arabs and demanded the
Danish government punish the offending paper, Jyllands-Posten.
About 200 demonstrators gathered in front of the embassy on
Tuesday to protest against the cartoons, witnesses said.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said his
government cannot apologize on behalf of independent media that
have only exercised their right to free speech, but
Jyllands-Posten has apologized for offending Muslims.

France Soir said it was reprinting the cartoons in the name
of freedom of expression and to fight religious intolerance.

One of the caricatures depicts the prophet wearing a turban
shaped like a bomb. Islamic tradition prohibits realistic
depictions of prophets, and considers caricatures blasphemous.