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Hamas joins call for calm in cartoon row
Updated: 2006-02-10 09:48

The radical Palestinian group Hamas joined voices for calm in the international furore sparked by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan said 100 suicide bombers had volunteered.

Hamas "is prepared to play a role in calming the situation between the Islamic world and Western countries on condition that these countries commit themselves to putting an end to attacks against the feelings of Muslims," the organisation's leader Khaled Meshaal told a news conference.

His conciliatory tone came a day after he warned the Western press was "playing with fire" by publishing the cartoons which have led to riots around the world.

As Muslim protests over the cartoons subsided on Thursday, a Taliban commander in Afghanistan warned that 100 militants had enlisted as suicide bombers and Denmark said it feared for the safety of its troops in Iraq.

Mullah Dadullah, one of the Taliban's most senior military commanders, said his Islamic extremist group had also offered a reward of 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of gold to anyone who killed people responsible for the drawings.

Meanwhile Afghan authorities arrested more than 40 Pakistani workers for inciting violence Wednesday during a protest against the cartoons in which four people were killed.

The deaths in Qalat raised the death toll to 11 in five days of protests in Afghanistan against the cartoons. Two people have also died in protests in Somalia and Lebanon.

The cartoons, including one showing the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, were first published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in September, but have since been widely reprinted.

The newspaper's chief editor, Carsten Juste, said Thursday the culture editor who had decided to publish the cartoons, Flemming Rose, had been sent on holiday for an indefinite period "because nobody can bear the weight that is on his shoulders," according to the online edition of the Danish daily Politiken.

Danish military officials said the country's troops deployed in Iraq were keeping a low profile Thursday to avoid any clashes with Shiites during their holy mourning festival of Ashura.

Calls for calm came from many quarters Thursday after days of violent protests.

A senior figure at Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, said it was time to move on from high emotion to constructive dialogue.

"Quiet debate and dialogue, without passion" is the way forward, Ali al-Samman, who heads an interconfessional dialogue committee at the prestigious seat of learning in the Egyptian capital, said.

UN chief Kofi Annan again slammed the violence. "It is unfortunate that we all need to take steps to calm the situation and whatever the anger of those concerned, violence is not the answer," the secretary general told reporters.

Annan, asked whether he thought some governments were behind the violence, replied: "It's difficult for me to say. I have no evidence to that effect."

Russian President Vladimir Putin also called for cool: "The situation should be brought under control as soon as possible."

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