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Vatican Sending Envoys to Muslim States to Explain Pope's Remarks

The Vatican says it is sending envoys to meet with political and religious leaders in Muslim countries in an effort to defuse anger over Pope Benedict's recent controversial remarks about Islam.

Officials say the envoys will explain the pope's speech, which quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad brought evil and inhumane forces to the world.

The pope has said the comments are not his views and expressed regret for the Muslim world's outrage following his speech last week in Germany.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi says his country accepts the pope's expressions of regret, but he urged the Roman Catholic leader to refrain from making statements that could anger Muslims further. Malaysia chairs the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world's biggest Muslim bloc.

During a meeting with Mr. Badawi in New York Monday, President Bush said he thinks the pope was sincere in his regret.

Despite the Vatican's repeated apologies for any misunderstanding caused by the speech, many Muslims have equated what the Pope said with what they think he believes. Angry protesters took to the streets in Pakistani Kashmir and in Iraq Monday.

Australia's top Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, said Monday the demonstrators' reaction shows the connection for many Islamists between religion and violence.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.