February 19, 2006

Danish ambassador exits Pakistan after cartoon demos

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark said on Sunday that its
ambassador in Pakistan had temporarily returned home because he
could not work after violent protests over cartoons of the
Prophet Mohammad first published in the Nordic country.

The Foreign Ministry said that Danes in Pakistan who need
help should apply to the German embassy.

"The Danish ambassador in Pakistan, Bent Wigotski, has
returned temporarily to Denmark because it is practically
impossible for him to do his job under the current
circumstances," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its
Web site.

Lars Thuesen, Director General of Denmark's Consulate
Service, said that the departure of the ambassador was not a
diplomatic issue.

"He has left the country for security reasons, he has not
been withdrawn for consultations," Thuesens said.

On Friday, Denmark temporarily closed the embassy because
of security concerns and issued a new travel warning for
Pakistan, urging Danes there to leave as soon as possible.

On Sunday, police in Pakistan's capital Islamabad fired
teargas and warning shots to disperse small groups of
demonstrators, despite sealing the city to stop Islamists
protesting against the cartoons.

At least five people have been killed in similar protests
in the past week.

Pakistan has issued diplomatic protests over the cartoons
published in several, mainly European newspapers, and on Friday
recalled its ambassador from Denmark.

One leading Muslim cleric in the northwestern city of
Peshawar has offered a reward to anyone who kills one of the
Danish cartoonists who drew the pictures, which have sparked
anger among Muslims around the world.

The Danish ambassador stayed at a secure location before he
left the country, Thuesen at the Consulate Service said.

He added that there were no expatriate consulate staff left
in Pakistan, but that around 100 Danes had chosen to remain in
the country despite the protests.