French leaders stuck in the middle on cartoon crisis

3rd February 2006, Comments 0 comments

TROYES, France, Feb 3, 2006 (AFP) - French leaders warned on Friday against any further escalation in the crisis sparked by European cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, calling for the West to show respect and Muslims moderation.

TROYES, France, Feb 3, 2006 (AFP) - French leaders warned on Friday against any further escalation in the crisis sparked by European cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, calling for the West to show respect and Muslims moderation.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said there was a need to uphold both "freedom" and "respect", while Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy voiced "shock" at the violence of some of the Muslim reactions to the sketches.

France wishes "to avoid anything that is unnecessarily hurtful, especially in the field of religious beliefs," Villepin told a press conference in the eastern city of Troyes.

Douste-Blazy, meanwhile, warned against any further "escalation", in an interview with French news channel LCI, saying it was "not right to caricature an entire religion as an extremist — even terrorist — movement."

However, the minister also expressed his "complete shock" at the flag-burning and calls for violence by Islamist movements which have led protests in the Middle East and Asia over the caricatures.

He warned it was "unacceptable" for "extremists, anywhere in the world, because of sketches printed in the West, to burn flags or adopt fundamentalist or extremist positions that would end up proving the cartoonists right."

The dozen newspaper cartoons, first published in Denmark in September and reprinted in several European papers this week, include an image of Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban and another of him telling suicide bombers at the gates of paradise that he has run out of virgins.

Asked whether the French government should apologise over the cartoons' publication in several French papers, Douste-Blazy said that press freedoms were governed by law and warned against any "excess of censorship".

The French-Egyptian owner of France Soir newspaper, which reprinted the cartoons in full this week, has sacked the paper's editor and apologised to Muslims offended by the drawings.

France's centre-left newspaper Libération on Friday reprinted two of the cartoons, describing them as "exhibits in the case".

The appeals for calm came after French public television decided to axe a report on the cartoon crisis, aired on the national channel France 2, from international versions of its Thursday night news broadcast.

Editors at TV5 Monde, a public channel which broadcasts to 200 countries, decided to cut the report — which did not show the offending cartoons — from its main evening news.

"The report, even using toned down and indirect pictures, was powerful enough to risk endangering the lives of some of our correspondents or European nationals," a senior editor of TV5 Monde, Philippe Dessaint, told French radio.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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