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Europe

European Presidents Condemn Violence Linked to Caricatures

The presidents of seven European countries have condemned the violent protests against the publication in Europe of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

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The Islamic world is in uproar over the caricatures

"Violence and threats are not acceptable under any circumstances," German head of state Horst Köhler said at a meeting in the eastern city of Dresden with the presidents of Finland, Italy, Latvia, Austria, Portugal and Hungary.

Köhler said that freedom of expression was a crucial element of democratic society but warned it should not be used recklessly.

Der neugewählte Bundespräsident Horst Köhler

Horst Köhler said religious beliefs are also a part of freedom

"Responsibility and respect of others and their religious beliefs are also part of freedom," he said, in remarks backed by the other presidents at the gathering.

"We must express the fact that we respect others but also that we do not accept violence and destruction," Köhler said.

German president calls for dialogue

He said Europe must now seek dialogue between religions and cultures, against the backdrop of the outrage in the Islamic world over the publication of 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

One depicts the founder of the Islamic faith as a knife-wielding Bedouin and another sees him wearing a time bomb-shaped turban.

The drawings, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September 2005, have sparked a wave of anger in Muslim countries, where flags have been burned, ambassadors recalled, European products boycotted and Scandinavians threatened with violence.

EU should speak as one voice

Heinz Fischer, österreichischer Präsident

Austrian President Heinz Fischer called for a united European voice

"It is important that we speak with one voice on this issue in the European Union, uphold our common values but also make an effort toward de-escalation," said President Heinz Fischer of Austria, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

Latvia President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said no dialogue would be possible if the Europeans did not demonstrate respect toward Muslims.

Both sides must seek concilliation

Präsident Vaira Vike-Freiberga Lettland

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga wants bridges to be built

She said that although the cartoons had intended to attack violence committed in the name of Islam, they had come across as an affront to the religion itself. But despite the uproar, she said both sides must seek a solution.

"People of good will must find away to build bridges of understanding," she said.

The seven presidents were gathered in Dresden for a two-day informal meeting on the future of Europe.

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