Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen says his country has moved diplomats out of three Muslim countries for security, not diplomatic, reasons. The move follows violent protests over cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad, that were published in a Danish newspaper last September.
In demonstrations around the world against the cartoons, which included images that depict Muhammad as a terrorist, Danish missions have borne the brunt of the protesters' anger.
"Well, three of our embassies have been attacked, in Syria and Lebanon, and in Iran," said Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He told the CNN program Late Edition that his government has warned Danish citizens against travel to certain countries and evacuated embassies in Indonesia, Iran, and Syria.
"I would like to stress that we have done so for security reasons," he said. "We have not cut the diplomatic relations, because my country believes in building bridges, not burning them."
When asked if the Danish government should have done anything differently, Rasmussen said no.
"I would like to remind you that the cartoons were published in a free and independent newspaper," he said. "And, of course, neither the Danish government nor the Danish people can be held responsible for what is published in an independent newspaper. I would also like to remind you that the newspaper has apologized to the Muslim world for offense caused by the drawings."
The Danish leader said he thinks his country is being made the scapegoat for other Muslim difficulties.
"In one way or another, Denmark has become a symbol of frustration for problems which go well beyond the original cause, so we are very much focused on that," said Prime Minister Rasmussen.
He added that some of the countries that are being blamed for inflaming anger over the cartoons have their own reasons for doing so.
"It is clear to me that certain countries take advantage of this situation to distract attention from their own problems with the international community, including Syria and Iran," he said.
Meanwhile, on the CBS television program Face the Nation, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that the cartoons were offensive to her. But she urged more Muslim leaders to speak out against the violent protest activity that followed their publication.
"Whatever your views of this, the violence and going into the streets and burning embassies and killing innocent people, is unacceptable. And, there are leaders in the Muslim world who have spoken out against that, like the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani in Iraq," she said.
She especially criticized Iran and Syria, calling for the governments in those two countries to "tamp down" the situation.
"I think we understand the nature of the Syrian and Iranian regimes," she said. "You do not just go out in the streets of Iran and protest spontaneously, and in the streets of Syria and protest spontaneously. The Syrian and Iranian governments have very good control of these things."
Rice especially blasted an Iranian call to respond to the offensive cartoons by publishing Holocaust cartoons that are offensive to Jewish people, saying such a move is incitement.