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Italian Minister Resigns After Wearing Muhammad T-Shirt


An Italian minister, who has been blamed for sparking Friday's deadly riot in Libya, has resigned. Italian Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli had come under increasing government pressure to step down after he was shown on television wearing a t-shirt featuring controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Friday's protest in the Libyan city of Benghazi turned deadly after Muslim protesters hurled stones and bottles at the Italian consulate and then set it on fire. Police, armed with tear gas and live ammunition, fired on the protesters to disperse them, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens more.

Italian and Libyan officials said the riot was apparently in reaction to Italian Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli's wearing of a t-shirt printed with the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that have caused outrage across the Muslim world.

The 12 cartoons were first published in a Danish newspaper in September, but have been widely republished in European newspapers in recent weeks. Those newspapers say they did so in defense of free speech, but many Muslims found the caricatures highly offensive and insulting to Islam, which forbids depictions of the prophet.

Calderoli's behavior has embarrassed Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, which is campaigning for April elections. The prime minister and several other ministers urged Calderoli to resign.

Calderoli initially resisted calls to step down, but Saturday relented and handed in his resignation.

Friday's death toll in Libya was the highest of any protest against the cartoons, and the government has declared Sunday a day of mourning across the North African country.

The Libyan government said Saturday it had suspended Interior Minister Nasr al-Mabrouk, and referred him for investigation after what it said was excessive use of force used by police to disperse the protesters.

Meanwhile, in London, more than 10,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square for an angry but peaceful demonstration. Protests were also reported Saturday in Karachi, Copenhagen, New York and Vienna.

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