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Denmark makes overtures to Muslims in cartoon row

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COPENHAGEN, Feb 24 (Reuters) Denmark has sent a video tape to Arab television stations in which Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller presents some initiatives aimed at easing global tensions over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

''The message is that we have listened to reactions from abroad and now launch a number of forward-looking and constructive initiatives aimed at promoting respectful dialogue,'' a foreign ministry spokesman said today.

The televised and text statement sent to Arab media outlets and Muslim countries via Danish embassies says Denmark will hold a religious conference, make a donation to a UN agency committed to fighting prejudice and hold a Muslim cultural exhibition later this year.

The statement is available on the ministry's special website set up for the cartoon crisis, www.drawings.um.dk.

The caricatures first published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and later reprinted in other European papers have sparked violent protests worldwide by Muslims, many of whom believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet.

Angry Muslims have set fire to Denmark's embassies in Syria and Lebanon and demanded an official apology from the Nordic country, which has around 530 troops serving in Iraq. But Denmark has refused to apologise on behalf of the paper.

''In Denmark there is a genuine respect for the religious feelings of other people and we acknowledge that many Muslims have felt gravely insulted by these controversial drawings,'' Moeller said in the statement.

Among the initiatives is a conference on religious and cultural dialogue on March 10 in Copenhagen with participation of among others the prominent Islamic preacher Amr Khaled.

Denmark will also provide a ''significant financial contribution'' to the Alliance of Civilizations, set up by the United Nations to bridge divides and overcome prejudices.

The government is also organizing an ''Images of Islam'' festival in Copenhagen later this year.

''In a globalised world, we all need each other, and we all have to work together. Denmark is determined to be at the forefront in this endeavour,'' Moeller said.

REUTERS CH PM1905

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