(President Bush called for an end to violence, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2006, triggered by publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Photo: AP)
U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday called for an end to the worldwide violence triggered by caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, as protests against publishing the cartoons continued in the Muslim world.
"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," Bush told the media during a joint public appearance with Jordanian King Abdullah II in the Oval Office.
"We reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in a free press," he said.
Bush made the comments after the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, which were first published by Danish daily Jyllands-Poste and later reprinted in other European press, provoked violent protests in the Muslim world.
Norway, Germany, France and Canada, whose newspapers also reprinted the cartoons, on Wednesday condemned the publication of the cartoons.
"Islam constitutes the spiritual foundation for a large part of the world's population, and their religion is entitled to our respect," said Norwegian Ambassador to Syria Svein Sevje.
Describing the publication of the cartoons as "unfortunate and deplorable", he said the Norwegian government "condemns any action or statement that expresses contempt for a person on the basis of religion or ethnic background."
German Jewish leader Paul Spiegel also criticized the cartoons, saying that "not everything which is legally protected as freedom of opinion is morally and ethically justifiable."
French President Jacques Chirac condemned at a weekly cabinet meeting the publication of the cartoons and accused them of "manifest provocation" which had "dangerously fanned passion."
Canadian Foreign Minister Peter Mackay issued a statement calling for responsible freedom of expression and a better understanding of Islam and Muslim communities.
As leaders of countries concerned tried to calm down the fury over the cartoons, protests continued Wednesday in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Palestine.
In Bangladesh, the second largest Muslim country, about 10,000 protesters of Khelafat Anolon (Movement), a component of Islamic Oikya Jote (Islamic United Front) and also a partner of the four-party Islamist alliance government led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, marched through the streets of the capital.
The protesters shouted slogans against Denmark and other European countries and later burnt the Danish national flag.
In Afghanistan, at least three protesters were killed and 20 others including eight policemen were wounded as Afghan police and angry mob clashed Wednesday in Qalat, the capital of southern Zabul province.
The protesters were marching towards the U.S. military-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) base in the volatile province.
Demonstrations against the blasphemous cartoons have so far claimed 10 lives and wounded more than 60 others over the past three days in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of Palestinian protestors threw stones and bottles at an international monitoring mission's office in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday.
The protestors smashed some office windows of the Temporary International Presence in the City of Hebron (TIPH), but police intervened and stopped some Palestinian youths from trying to set fire to the building, witnesses said.
In a precautious measure, 11 Danish members of the mission left Hebron over a week ago to avoid being targeted, said the spokeswoman.