DOHA, Feb 26 (Reuters) The United Nations, Arab states and the world's largest Islamic body called for restraint and dialogue to ease tensions over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
The cartoons first published last year in a Danish newspaper and since reprinted in other European papers have sparked worldwide protests by Muslims who believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet.
Dozens have died in violence related to the protests.
''All of us now join to renew our call for restraint and for an immediate end to the present atmosphere, which threatens to sow deep discord between communities, societies and countries,'' said a joint statement, issued after a meeting in Qatar attended by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
''We deeply regret the offence given by the caricatures, as well as the loss of life and damage to property in several countries,'' said the statement issued by Annan and the heads of the Arab League and the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference, who were also at the meeting.
The group said it would try to propose measures to help overcome the crisis.
''We urge everyone to resist provocation, overreaction and violence, and turn to dialogue. Without dialogue we cannot hope to appeal to reason, to heal resentment or overcome mistrust,'' said the statement, also issued by the foreign ministers of Qatar, Spain and Turkey who attended the meeting.
''We also reaffirm the right to peaceful protest, especially where deep hurt has been caused, and we acknowledge that Muslims do indeed feel deep hurt over the caricatures,'' it said.