French President Jacques Chirac has urged citizens to treat religious beliefs with respect and responsibility, as he seeks to ease Islamic anger at newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.
Mr. Chirac told the head of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, freedom of expression is fundamental, but France, a secular country, respects all faiths. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw denounced the cartoons as tasteless and disrespectful. T
he U.S. State Department issued a similar statement. In Copenhagen, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with Muslim diplomats to try to ease their anger. He deplored the reaction to the drawings, but did not apologize for their publication, noting that Danish newspapers are free enterprises.
A Danish newspaper first published the cartoons in September. Many European papers reprinted them to show solidarity for press freedom. Their appearance prompted outrage and protests among Muslims in many countries.