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Denmark warns cartoon row could spin out of control

February 7, 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.

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 burned 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 Organization if
it carried out a threatened Danish trade boycott.

SECURITY FEARS

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten has apologized for the
cartoons published last September and the Danish government has
tried to mollify Muslims without apologizing 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,” Defense
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 canceled 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 canceled 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)


Source: reuters



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