Istanbul: Rasmussen apologizes?

Istanbul: Rasmussen apologizes?

Update: According to Turkish news, this wasn't an apology.

Yesterday news reports said that Turkey supported Anders Fogh Rasmussen's bid for Secretary General of NATO in return for an apology for the Mohammad cartoons.

Danish news then reported that Rasmussen said he would not apologize:

"Listen. In Denmark we do not apologise for having freedom of speech," Fogh Rasmussen is quoted by Ritzau as saying.

"You all know that a Danish Prime Minister cannot apologise on behalf of a newspaper," he continues.

Until the entire text of his remarks are published, here's what I found so far, compiled from several news sources.

"I would never myself depict any religious figure, including the Prophet Muhammad, in a way that could hurt other people's feelings."

"I respect Islam as one of the world's major religions as well as its religious symbols," Rasmussen said during a panel discussion at a conference in Istanbul.

"I was deeply distressed that the cartoons were seen by many Muslims as an attempt by Denmark to mark and insult or behave disrespectively towards Islam or the Prophet Mohammad. Nothing could be further from my mind," he added.

The NATO row, which threatened the image of unity at the military alliance's 60th anniversary summit, was resolved after U.S. President Barack Obama had given Turkey guarantees that Turkish commanders would be present at the alliance's command and that one of Rasmussen's deputies would be a Turk.


Rasmussen had previously defended the publication of the cartoons, which caused protests in the Muslim world, on the grounds of free speech and refused to apologise to Muslim countries.

"During my tenure as the Secretary General of NATO I will pay close attention to the religious and cultural sensibilities of the different communities that populate our increasingly pluralistic and globalised world," Rasmussen said.

"My position was clear before, during and after the crisis," Fogh Rasmussen said.

In his speech to the Alliance of Civilizations, a forum sponsored by Turkey and Spain to promote understanding between the Western and Islamic worlds, Fogh Rasmussen said prejudice must be confronted.

He said dialogue between cultures and religions should be "based on mutual respect and understanding" and that all kinds of censorship hamper that process.

"That's exactly the balance that we have to strike," he said, referring to free speech and respect for religions.

Sources: SwissInfo, FOX (English)

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