Prophet Muhammad cartoons affect Denmark's exports to Muslim countries

Denmark's exports to Muslim countries fell by more than 11 percent in 2006 as a result of a boycott of Danish goods to protest the publication of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, the national statistics agency said Friday.

Dairy products, dominated by the Scandinavian Arla Foods group, were worst hit, with exports dropping 39 percent to 1.1 billion kroner (EUR 148 million; US$196 million), Statistics Denmark said.

In December, Copenhagen-based Arla Foods said the boycott in the Middle East had cost the company about 400 million kroner (EUR 54 million; US$71.4 million) in 2006. The group said its sales in the Middle East and North Africa have rebounded in recent months, reaching 60 percent of levels before the boycott, which started in Saudi Arabia and spread to other Arab countries.

In September 2005, the Danish daily the Jyllands-Posten published 12 controversial cartoons - one of them showing Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse.

Four months later, they were reprinted in a range of Western media, triggering massive protests from Morocco to Indonesia.

But overall, Danish exports grew by 9 percent last year to 546 billion kroner (EUR 73 billion; US$97 billion). Exports to the 57 countries in the Organization of the Islamic Conference represent only 2.5 percent of all Danish exports.

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