French Muslim leader urges calm as Mohammad cartoons republished

PARIS Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:36am EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - The main agency representing Muslims in France appealed for calm on Friday as a new print run of cartoons featuring a naked Prophet Mohammad hit newsstands, raising fears of protests on prayers day around the Islamic world.

The drawings in satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo risk stoking a furor over a film mocking the Prophet, which provoked the storming of U.S. and other Western embassies, the killing of the U.S. envoy to Libya and a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

French embassies, schools and cultural centers were shut in some 20 Muslim countries, on orders issued from Paris after the cartoons were first published.

In the French capital, police were on alert after protests planned by some Muslim groups were banned.

Mohammed Moussaoui, leader of the French Muslim Council (CFCM), described both the film and the cartoons as "acts of aggression" but appealed to French Muslims not to take to the streets for wildcat protests.

"I repeat the CFCM's call not to protest - any protest could be hijacked and counterproductive," Moussaoui told French radio station RFI.

Charlie Hebdo, an anti-establishment weekly whose Paris offices are under police protection, defied critics to rush out another run of the publication that caused outrage and sold out in minutes last Wednesday. It says the cartoons are designed simply to poke fun at the uproar over the film.

The cartoons have sparked little street anger in France so far, but French authorities are concerned they could compound the worldwide fury over the privately funded, California-made video depicting Prophet Mohammad as a lecher.

French media showed TV footage of an embassy protected by soldiers and masses of barbed wire in North African former colony Tunisia, where the Islamist-led government has also decreed a ban on protests over the cartoons.

About 100 Iranians protested outside the French embassy in Tehran on Thursday.

(Reporting By Brian Love; editing by Mark John, John Stonestreet)

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