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Appeals for calm over cartoon row

Muslim leader joins U.N., EU in condemning violence

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(CNN) -- The leader of the world's largest Muslim organization has joined other world leaders in condemning violence over the publication of cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, joined with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, in calling for calm, saying they were "deeply alarmed at the repercussions" the cartoons have caused.

"We call on the authorities of all countries to protect all diplomatic premises and foreign citizens against unlawful attack," read the statement released by the three world leaders.

The violence that has swept across parts of the world has come in response to the publication -- mainly in European newspapers -- of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, something forbidden under Muslim belief.

Across much of the Muslim world on Wednesday, political leaders urged calm over the dispute.

In Afghanistan, that nation's top Islamic organization called for an end to riots against the drawings, as police shot dead two protesters to stop hundreds of them from marching on a U.S. military base in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. At least 10 people were wounded, the AP reported, quoting officials.

In Indonesia, both government and top Islamic leaders called on Muslims to prevent rallies from becoming violent, news services reported.

A prominent Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, invited artists to enter a Holocaust cartoon competition, saying it wanted to see if freedom of expression -- the banner under which many Western publications reprinted the prophet drawings -- also applied to Holocaust images. (Full story)

Thousands of protesters across the Muslim world had launched protests again Tuesday, with crowds firing on a NATO base in northwestern Afghanistan, protesters launching Molotov cocktails at the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Iran and angry demonstrators chanting slogans against European Union nations in Pakistan.

Outside the Danish embassy in Tehran, hundreds of Muslims threw rocks at the building, burned a Danish flag and clashed with police.

"Death to Denmark!" they chanted, outraged by the caricatures that were first printed in a Danish newspaper.

Some other European papers have since published some of the cartoons, and they have also been reprinted in the Middle East and parts of Asia. The depiction of Mohammed is forbidden in Islam.

In their joint statement, Annan, Ihsanoglu and Solana urged greater dialogue between religious and political leaders.

"These events make the need for renewed dialogue, among and between communities of different faiths and authorities of different countries, all the more urgent. We call on them to appeal for restraint and calm, in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect."

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also appealed for restraint by demonstrators, saying the situation needs to be solved "through dialogue, not violence" and that the people of his nation are watching in "disbelief and sadness the events unfolding in the world."

"Today I want to appeal and reach out to all people and countries in the Muslim world: Let us work together in the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance," Rasmussen said in Copenhagen.

Rasmussen blamed the violence on "radical extremists and fanatics" who are "adding fuel to the flames in order to push forward their own agendas," many using high-tech means -- like text messaging -- to spread false information before his country can respond to the accusations.

He warned that the situation could get worse if not stopped now.

"We are facing a growing global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of government and other authorities," Rasmussen told reporters in a news conference.

Cheney: Violent protests 'overdone'

On Tuesday U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said the violent protests by thousands of Muslims angry over the cartoons was not justified, and he called their reaction "overdone."

"We think the violence is not justified, in terms of what's happened there," Cheney told PBS's "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer."

"I think it's been overdone, I guess if I can put it in those terms."

In the PBS interview, Cheney was asked if the newspapers were justified in publishing the cartoons: "We believe very deeply in freedom of expression. Obviously, we think it's appropriate for people to respect one another's religion. But I don't believe that the printing of those cartoons justifies the violence that we've seen."

CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam.

-- CNN Producer Syed Mohsin Naqvi and Journalist Tom Coghlan contributed to this report

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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