Lebanon apologies to Denmark after protesters

Lebanon apologized Monday to Denmark after thousands of rampaging Muslim demonstrators set fire to its diplomatic mission in Beirut in the most violent of escalating worldwide rage by Muslims over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said early Monday, after a late Sunday emergency Cabinet meeting, that the government had unanimously "rejected and condemned the acts of riots ... that harmed Lebanon's reputation and its civilized image and the noble aim of the demonstration."

"The Cabinet apologizes to Denmark," Aridi said. At least one person died, 30 were injured, half of them security officials, and about 200 people were detained in the violence Sunday, officials said. Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said the arrested included 76 Syrians, 35 Palestinians and 38 Lebanese.

The interior minister, who is responsible for the police force that failed to stop the protesters, submitted his resignation at the session. The parliamentary opposition and even some Cabinet colleagues of Interior Minister Hassan Sabei had demanded he step down, but the government appeared divided, saying it only "took note" of the resignation offer.

The government also called for a speedy investigation. The Beirut violence came a day after violent protests in neighboring Syria, including the burning of the Danish mission there. The United States accused the Syrian government of backing the protests in Lebanon and Syria.

Thousands also took to the streets Sunday elsewhere in the Muslim world and parts of Europe, including some 3,000 Afghans who burned a Danish flag and demanding that the editors at Jyllands-Posten, which originally published the cartoons, be prosecuted for blasphemy. Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged forgiveness.

In Malaysia, an editor at a small newspaper on remote Borneo Island resigned for reprinting the caricatures and, in a statement Monday, the Sunday Tribune newspaper apologized and expressed "profound regret over the unauthorized publication."

The Islamic Army in Iraq, a key group in the insurgency fighting U.S.-led and Iraqi forces, posted a second Internet statement Sunday calling for violence against citizens of countries where the caricatures have been published.

In Beirut, the attack on the Danish mission took on a sectarian dimension in this mixed Muslim-Christian nation, which suffered a 1975-90 civil war. Muslim extremists took over the streets in the Christian Ashrafieh neighborhood where the Danish mission is located, wreaking havoc on property for about three hours.

In the violence, protesters defied tear gas and water cannons to seize the Danish mission and torch it, then rampage through the Christian neighborhood, reports the AP.

I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team