INTERNATIONAL

Pakistan takes up blasphemous cartoon issue at the U.N.



B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf said on Saturday that Islamabad has taken up at the United Nations (U.N.) the issue of publication of offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammed.

Speaking to an eight member delegation of the eminent Islamic scholars, who called on him at Rawalpindi, Gen. Musharraf said Pakistan believed the entire international community has a responsibility towards promoting inter-faith harmony and discouraging any act that may damage the cause of world peace and stability.

"Pakistan has strongly condemned the appearance of sacrilegious sketches and taken up the issue internationally and working in coordination with the UN and the OIC to prevent recurrence of such blasphemy," he stated.

He noted that such blasphemous publications encourage the propagators of insidious notions of clash of civilisations. "Therefore, it is the collective responsibility of the entire world leadership to help foster understanding and bridge the gap created in the wake of sacrilegious sketches," he said and added that he would also discuss the issue with U.S. President George W Bush when he visits Islamabad in the first week of March.

The Muslims, he said, hold Prophets of God in the highest esteem and believe that blasphemy against any of the Prophets is reprehensible.

Clashes in Nigeria

AP reports from Lagos: Meanwhile, sectarian violence spread to three more Nigerian cities on Friday, claiming at least seven lives and pushing up the death toll in days of killings to at least 127, residents and witnesses said.

Rival religious and ethnic groups skirmished in the cities of Potiskum in northeastern Yobe state, Kontagora in northern Niger state and Enugu, capital of southeastern Enugu state.

Churches burnt

Muslim youths in Potiskum, armed with machetes and clubs attacked shops belonging mostly to Christians and burned five churches, resident Ibrahim Dagbugur said.

Four people were killed. Riot police battled for hours before they could bring the violence under control, other residents said.

The violence followed weekend protests over the publication in Europe of controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad that have enraged Muslims worldwide.

In the mainly Christian southeastern city of Enugu, at least one person was killed by mobs that attacked ethnic Hausa Muslims, witnesses said.

Of the 127 persons killed this week in Muslim-Christian fighting across the country, 80 died in the southeastern city of Onitsha.

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