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Anger Over Cartoons Mocking Muhammed Leads to Violence

By Carlotta Gall 
and Craig S. Smith


Muslim anger over Danish cartoons that satirized the prophet Muhammad continued to swell across Asia and the Middle East on Monday, turning violent in Afghanistan where at least four protesters died and more than a dozen police officers and protesters were injured.

As the unrest gained momentum, European diplomats worked the telephones and fanned out across the Muslim world, urging their counterparts to issue statements that might help calm the unrest that had already destroyed the Danish consulate in Lebanon and the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria on Saturday.

On Monday, protesters turned out in Turkey, Indonesia, India, Thailand, and even in New Zealand, where newspapers recently reprinted the cartoons. A teenager died in Somalia on Monday when police set off a stampede by firing into the air to disperse protesters.

Crowds in the Iranian capital, Tehran, set fire to the Danish Embassy and broke the windows of the embassy of Austria, which now holds the presidency of the European Union. Thousands of students demonstrated in Cairo. The diplomacy was complicated by other international issues and domestic politics in countries where protests have occurred, with the most significant demonstrations localized in what Christina Gallach, a spokesman for Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, called “very peculiar” places, including Iran, Syria and Gaza.

Iran, for example, is facing international pressure to halt its nuclear program and Syria has been isolated internationally since the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri last year.

Gallach said on Monday “What we have to ask is that Arab leaders, and Arabs themselves, who see the importance of having good relations with Europe and the Western world, come out and speak clearly about the importance of not letting the situation deteriorate to the point that the only one who suffers is moderate Islam.”

Gallach said Solana had spoken to leaders of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as representatives of the Arab League and diplomats in several Arab countries. EU representatives have also called on government ministers across the Muslim world.