Spain and Turkey prime ministers urge calm respect amid anger over prophet cartoons

The prime ministers of Spain and Turkey issued an appeal Monday for "respect and calm" in a newspaper column, as many Muslims express anger about caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in European newspapers.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Spain's Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose two countries have promoted cross-cultural dialogue, said they regretted the "unfortunate events" of recent days.

Protesters in Lebanon and Syria set fire to the diplomatic missions of Denmark in the most violent of escalating worldwide rage by Muslims who found the caricatures deeply offensive. One of the drawings, which were first published by a Danish newspaper, depicts Islam's prophet wearing a turban shaped to look like a bomb.

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, based in Paris, Erdogan and Zapatero said: "We shall all be the losers if we fail to immediately defuse this situation, which can only leave a trail of mistrust and misunderstanding between both sides in its wake."

"Therefore, it is necessary to make an appeal for respect and calm, and let the voice of reason be heard," they said.

Spain and Turkey last year presided over the launch of the Alliance of Civilizations, a U.N.-sponsored program aimed to counter extremism and promote respect between civilizations and cultures.

The cartoons were first published in Denmark's daily Jyllands-Posten in September, and more drawings have recently been printed in other European papers, either to illustrate the controversy or to demonstrate support for freedom of the press, reports the AP.

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