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Rice Accuses Syria, Iran of Inflaming Muslim Sentiments Over Cartoons


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Syria and Iran have deliberately inflamed Muslim passions over cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad that have sparked massive protests. Condoleezza Rice spoke in Washington at a joint news conference with Israel's foreign minister.

With demonstrations continuing in much of the Muslim world, Secretary of State Rice said all governments should be urging calm, but that Syria and Iran are doing the opposite to further political aims.

"There are governments that have used this opportunity to incite violence," she said. "I do not have any doubt that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this for their own purposes. And the world ought to call them on it [expose it]."

Protests over the cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper and included an image of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, have led to bloodshed in several countries, most recently in Afghanistan, where police killed four demonstrators. European embassies and diplomatic offices have been torched and vandalized in several Muslim nations.

Secretary Rice said the United States believes in freedom of the press, but added that with that freedom comes responsibility. Regardless of perceived provocation, she said there is no excuse for violence.

"Nothing justifies the violence that has broken out in which many innocent people have been injured," she said. "Nothing justifies the burning of diplomatic facilities or threats to diplomatic facilities around the world. This is a time when everyone should urge calm."

Earlier, following a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah, President Bush said he rejected violence as a way to express discontent over what is printed in a free press. King Abdullah echoed Mr. Bush's words, but said the cartoons deserved condemnation.

At her news conference, Secretary Rice also said that the Palestinians' newly elected Hamas leadership must recognize Israel's right to exist if it expects the backing and support of the international community. Her Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, said that, once Hamas forms a government, the Palestinian Authority could be designated a terrorist state if it does not renounce violence and recognize Israel.