By David Brunnstrom
KABUL, March 18 (Reuters) - NATO is concerned about a possible backlash over a Dutch video criticising the Koran and has appealed to Afghan leaders for support, its top operational commander said on Wednesday.
Right-wing parliamentarian Geert Wilders says the Koran is a "fascist" book that incites violence and plans to show the 15-minute film this month despite appeals from the Dutch government and mounting unrest in the Muslim world.
Supreme Allied Commander Europe John Craddock said insurgents and their backers could use the video to whip up anger against NATO troops in Afghanistan, notably the 1,650-string Dutch contingent in the south.
"Yes, I think it is a concern ... that they will take out their ire on all of those people such as the Dutch in Uruzgan (province)," Craddock said.
"The problem is the extremists. They want to use this as a rallying point to their advantage," he told a news briefing at the headquarters of the 43,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul.
"We have appealed to the (Afghan) leadership: Don’t hold the soldiers accountable, it’s not fair ... I think the leaders have understood that."
About 15,000 people protested in Afghanistan against the film earlier this month, burning Dutch and Danish flags.
The Netherlands raised its national risk level to "substantial" this month and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende warned European leaders at a summit last week that consequences of showing the film could extend outside the Netherlands.
Mindful of the European attachment to freedom of speech, his government has not yet sought an outright ban on the film.
However, it is anxious to avoid a repeat of riots and attacks on Danish embassies sparked by Danish newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in 2006. It has urged Wilders not to broadcast the film and distanced itself from his views.
Wilders — the target of death threats on Islamic militant Web sites — has given few details about the film. He said last week he was disappointed no Dutch broadcaster wanted to show it.
Several Muslim countries have criticised the film and warned against broadcasting it. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, said on Friday the movie could derail inter-faith dialogue and threaten peace.
At least 50 people were killed in riots throughout the Muslim world after cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, one showing him with a turban resembling a bomb, were published in Denmark two years ago. (Writing by Mark John, editing by Paul Taylor and Robert Woodward)