Iran wants U.S. apology

The Iranian government yesterday rejected an accusation by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice it has fanned violent protests over caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad and demanded an apology, saying that could reduce growing tension.

Rice, meanwhile, said Iran and Syria should be urging their citizens to remain calm -- not encouraging violence like last week's attacks on western diplomatic missions in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut, Lebanon. Nearly a dozen people also were killed in protests in Afghanistan.

"If people continue to incite it, it could spin out of control," she said on ABC's This Week as furor mounted over the cartoons of Islam's most revered figure that first appeared in a Danish newspaper four months ago.

The drawings -- including one that depicts the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb -- have been reprinted in several publications in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere in what publishers say is a show of solidarity for freedom of expression.

The images offended many Muslims as Islam widely holds representations of the prophet are banned for fear they could lead to idolatry.

But some suggest the genuine anger displayed by crowds across the Muslim world has been exploited by some Muslim countries in the region to settle scores with western powers.

Rice said Wednesday "Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments . . . the world ought to call them on it."

Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hamid Reza Asefi said an apology from Rice and Denmark could help, reports London Free Press.

I.L.