Prophet drawings protest: Danish Embassy in Lebanon torched; Denmark slams Syria
Muslim demonstrators protesting caricatures of Islam's prophet set fire Sunday a building housing the Danish Embassy in Beirut as security forces fired tear gas in an effort to stop the protesters.
Thousands of protesters participated in the rally but only a small group of them tried to break the security barrier, prompting soldiers to fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse them, an official told the AP.
Troops also fired bullets into the air and over the protesters' heads. Witnesses said at least 10 wounded protesters were carried away in ambulances. Embassy staff had evacuated the building two days ago in anticipation of protests.
A similar incident took place Saturday in the Syrian capital. Denmark has blamed the Syrian regime for this. "Syria failed in its duty. It is completely unacceptable that the embassy was not protected by the Syrians," Denmark's Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said in a written statement, cited by AFP. Stig Moeller said that Damascus had actively contributed to the latest escalation. "The Syrian government has contributed to stirring up the situation, and now it is its duty to stop it," he told Denmark's Tv-Avisen paper on Sunday.
Syria expressed "sorrow" following the incident, but declined to condemn it. Syria's Grand Mufti, Dr. Sheikh Ahmad Badruddin Hassoun expressed the sorrow over the "bad way in which some people exploited of means of expression to protest" the publication of Prophet Mohammad drawings.
Dr. Hassoun said in a statement Saturday evening that “we feel sadness over what some people did…driven by their emotions into a stage in which they impaired our dialogue with the Danish and Norwegian peoples.”
According to SANA, the Grand Mufti pointed out that the Danish ambassador three days ago brought him an official letter from the Danish Prime Minister in which he apologized and expressed sorrow over what some Danish newspapers did. He added that “we had already accepted the apology, and agreed that the Danish newspaper concerned would publish articles by some Muslims in Denmark on the noble attributes and traits of the Prophet Mohammad so that we don’t reach the stage of conflict or lose friendship of our some of our friends in Europe who support Arab rights.”
Meanwhile, Iran said on Sunday it had recalled its ambassador to Denmark over the publication of the cartoons. "Iran has summoned its ambassador in Denmark to Tehran," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a news conference. "Freedoms should be accompanied by responsibility".
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- Cartoons crisis: Another day of protests amid calls by European leaders for calm
- Danish paper apologizes for cartoons under pressure from Muslims worldwide