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Danish Embassy torched in Beirut

Syrians set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus on Saturday.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 01:45 IST

Muslim protesters set ablaze the Danish consulate in Beirut on Sunday, and the violent turn in protests over publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad drew condemnation from European capitals and moderate Muslims.

Syrians set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus on Saturday. They damaged the Swedish embassy and tried to storm the French mission but were held off by riot police.

"The Danish government urges all leaders, political and religious, in the countries concerned to call on their populations to remain calm and refrain from violence," Denmark's Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said after the latest attacks.

Denmark is the focus for Muslim rage as images that Muslims find offensive, including one of the Prophets with a turban resembling a bomb, first appeared in a Danish daily in what has become ace-off between press freedom and religious respect.

The Danish Foreign Ministry urged Danes on Sunday to leave Lebanon and advised its citizens not to travel there.

One protester, among those who set the consulate on fire in Beirut, was encircled by flames and died after jumping from the third floor. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protest involving thousands of people.

Security forces arrested 174 protesters: 76 Syrians; 38 Lebanese; 35 Palestinians and 25 stateless Bedouins, a police official told Reuters.

"The violence now — particularly the burning of Danish missions abroad — is absolutely outrageous," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, adding:

"The vast majority of people of the Muslim faith in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have exercised their right to protest about these cartoons in an entirely peaceful way."

As peaceful demonstrations turned to ransacking Danish diplomatic offices and burning them in Syria and Lebanon, world leaders as well as prominent moderate Muslims appealed for calm.

"This has nothing to do with Islam at all," Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Future television. "Destabilising security and vandalism give a wrong image of Islam. Prophet Mohammad cannot be defended this way."

In the row, newspapers have insisted on their right to print the cartoons, citing freedom of speech, but for Muslims depicting the Prophet Mohammad is prohibited by Islam.

Protests about the cartoons raged at the weekend from Lahore to Gaza but mainstream moderate Muslim groups spoke out to warn against radicals hijacking the affair.

First Published: Feb 06, 2006 00:16 IST