Denmark: Iran Rejects Rice Claim It Is Inflaming Muslim Prophet Row

JAKARTA, Indonesia – An Iranian vice president on Thursday rejected a US contention that his country was fanning Muslim anger over the Prophet Mohammad cartoons, while a newspaper in Malaysia faced closure for printing one of the images. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments that have produced violent protests across the Muslim world against publication of the caricatures. That is 100 percent a lie, Isfandiar Rahim Mashaee, one of several Iranian vice presidents, told reporters during a visit to Indonesia. It is without attribution. The demonstrations – directed mostly at the foreign missions of Denmark, where the cartoons were first published – turned deadly this week in Afghanistan, where nine people have been fatally shot in clashes between demonstrators and security forces. The images – including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb – have been reprinted in mostly Western media. Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of the prophet. In Muslim-majority Malaysia, a newspaper that published printed one of the caricatures said it expected its printing license to be suspended by the government, while police launched an investigation over the issue. The Sarawak Press newspaper group has faced relentless public criticism despite apologizing for what it says was an editorial oversight that led to the publication of the caricature in its Sarawak Tribune last Saturday. We may not have publication of the newspaper by tomorrow, Sarawak Press executive director Polit Hamzah told The Associated Press on Thursday. Police questioned the editor who authorized the cartoon’s publication for two hours on Thursday and were examining whether the paper’s management broke any laws, the national news agency, Bernama, cited Sarawak’s police chief Talib Jamal as saying. The editor, Lester Melanyi, resigned over the controversy. In his first comments on the row, US President George W. Bush on Wednesday condemned deadly rioting in Afghanistan and urged foreign leaders to halt the violence and protect diplomats in besieged embassies. Police killed four people Wednesday as Afghans enraged over prophet drawings marched on a US military base in a volatile southern province. Five others were killed in protests earlier this week in Afghanistan. The US base was targeted because the United States is the leading infidel in the world, said Sher Mohammed, a 40-year-old farmer who suffered a gunshot wound while taking part in the demonstration in the city of Qalat. They are all the enemy of Islam. US officials say they are looking into whether extremist groups may be inciting protesters to riot. Zahor Afghan, editor for Erada, Afghanistan’s most respected newspaper, said the riots in his country have surprised him. No media in Afghanistan has published or broadcast pictures of these cartoons. The radio has been reporting on it, but there are definitely people using this to incite violence against the presence of foreigners in Afghanistan, he said. Afghanistan’s top Islamic organization, the Ulama Council, urged an end to the violence.