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Rice On Cartoon Controversy

In response to cartoons published in a Danish newspaper that satirize the Prophet Mohammed, there have been violent demonstrations in more than a dozen countries.

In Afghanistan, at least four demonstrators were killed. Mohammed Usman, a member of the Ulama Council, the leading Afghan Islamic organization, says, "We condemn the cartoons, but this does not justify violence. These rioters," he says, "are defaming the name of Islam." Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite political leader in Iraq, told a reporter, "We value and appreciate peaceful Islamic protests. But," he says, "we are against the idea of attacking embassies and other official sites."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the U.S. is a strong proponent of press freedom. The U.S., she says, has also been "a place where there has also been freedom of religion and that means that people have to . . . respect each other's religious traditions":

"Nothing justifies the violence that has broken out in which many innocent people have been injured. Nothing justifies the burning of diplomatic facilities or threats to diplomatic facilities around the world."

While many Muslims are genuinely upset about the cartoon controversy, extremists have used it as a pretext to foment anti-Danish violence. "This is a time," says Ms. Rice, "when everyone should urge calm and should urge that there is an atmosphere of respect and understanding." Provocations, she says, are no excuse for violent actions:

"There are governments that have also used this opportunity to incite violence. I don't have any doubt that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this for their own purposes."

"The world," says Secretary of State Rice, "ought to call them on it."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.