Thursday, February 9, 2006

Bush Urges End to Cartoon Protests

US President George Bush has called for an end to violence triggered by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as growing anger over their publication claimed more lives.

Speaking in Washington after a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah, Bush said press freedoms should have been exercised with sensitivity, but added: "We reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in a free press". "I call upon the governments around the world to stop the violence, to be respectful, to protect property, protect the lives of innocent diplomats who are serving their countries overseas," the US president said.

Bush made his comments after a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan.

"With all respect to press freedoms, obviously anything that villifies the Prophet Muhammad ... or attacks Muslim sensibilities, I believe, needs to be condemned," the king said.

He went on to say that, those who want to protest should "express their views peacefully". "When we see protests, when we see destruction, when we see violence - especially if it ends up taking the lives of innocent people, [it] is completely unacceptable," he said. "Islam is a religion of peace, toleration and moderation", he added.

Bush said that the reaction to the publication of the drawings was a subject "that requires a lot of discussion and a lot of sensitive thought. The president also went on to say that he "recognized that with freedom come responsibilities. With freedom comes the responsibility to be thoughtful about others".

The drawings, including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb have stirred a furor among Muslims. The caricatures were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.

Islam forbids any illustrations of Prophet Muhammad.

Meanwhile, the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has accused Iran and Syria of fuelling anti-Western sentiment, in a row over cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad. She said both countries had used the opportunity to incite violence and exploit Muslim anger.

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