| Students burn a Danish flag in Tehran on Monday. (AFP)
Tehran, Feb. 6 (Reuters): Fresh protests erupted across Asia and the West Asia today over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, despite calls by world leaders for calm after Danish diplomatic missions were set ablaze in Lebanon and Syria.
UN secretary-general Kofi Annan expressed alarm and urged restraint but oil giant Iran, which is reviewing trade ties with countries that published the cartoons, vowed to respond to “an anti-Islamic and Islamophobic current”.
In Tehran, about 400 demonstrators threw petrol bombs and stones at the Danish embassy in a protest over the cartoons.
Earlier today, about 200 people pelted the embassy of EU president Austria with petrol bombs and stones over the cartoons and Iran’s nuclear confrontation with the West. The mission did not catch fire and police prevented people from storming it.
Denmark has been the focus of Muslim rage as the images, one showing the prophet with a turban resembling a bomb, first appeared in a Danish daily and Muslims in the Gulf Arab region have intensified a boycott of Danish goods.
The furore has developed into a clash between press freedom and religious respect, with others advocating a middle way.
For Muslims, depicting the prophet is prohibited by Islam but moderate Muslim groups, while condemning publication of the cartoons and bridling at what they see as provocation, expressed fears about radicals and militants hijacking the affair.
“I call on all Arab countries to talk with moderation about what is happening,” French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said, in a view echoed by other leaders after the weekend riots in Beirut and Damascus.
Ukraine became the latest country where papers published the cartoons, joining Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Poland, the US, Japan, Norway, Malaysia and Australia.
Yemen today closed down a small newspaper and ordered the arrest of its editor for reprinting the cartoons.
Speaking from Beirut, Omar Bakri Mohammad, leader of the Islamist group al Muhajiroon which is banned in Britain, said: In Islam, god said, and the messenger Mohammad said, whoever insults a prophet, he must be punished and executed.”