//Cartoon-wearing Italian minister resigns

Cartoon-wearing Italian minister resigns

Feb 19, 2006

 An Italian minister who wore a T-shirt on state television featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that have outraged Muslims resigned on Saturday after a deadly attack on the Italian consulate in Libya.

A powerful charity led by a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had blamed Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli for Friday’s violence, in which at least 11 people were killed. The protest was the bloodiest so far over caricatures that Muslims regard as blasphemous.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and politicians from across Italy’s political spectrum had called on Calderoli, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, to step down, accusing him of stoking Muslim anger by reproducing the cartoons on a T-shirt he proudly wore on television this week.

Calderoli said in a statement he had quit out of a "sense of responsibility and certainly not because it was demanded by the government and the opposition".

"I don’t intend to allow further the shameful manipulation which is being brought to bear against me and against the Northern League from members of the ruling coalition," he added, following a meeting with Northern League party leaders.

Italian officials said at least 11 people died and nearly 40 were wounded when protesters stormed the Italian consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

Libya’s General People’s Congress fired Interior Minister Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdallah and Benghazi police chiefs on Saturday, saying "disproportionate force" had been used to disperse the protesters.

 Calderoli, a 49-year old dentist from the northern city of Bergamo, who has called the T-shirts a "battle for freedom" and is known for his inflammatory statements against immigrants and Muslims, said he could not be blamed for Friday’s events.

"What happened in Libya has nothing to do with my T-shirt. The problem is different … What is at stake is Western civilisation," he told daily La Repubblica.

The Gaddafi Foundation, chaired by Gaddafi’s influential son Saif al Islam, had urged Rome to take firm action against Calderoli, calling him a "racist full of hatred".

"If the Italian government fails to do so, Italian relations with Libya will go through a serious and crucial stage during which these ties will be reassessed and reviewed," it said.

Under Italy’s constitution, the prime minister does not have the power to force a minister out of office and can only ask him to step down.

But the Italian foreign ministry said it had been reassured by Libya’s deputy foreign minister that the violence would have no repercussions on ties between the countries.
 
Embarrassment

The row has embarrassed Berlusconi ahead of April elections in which he wants to portray himself as a force of moderation within the centre-right. It also follows years of warming relations with Libya, which Rome once ruled as a colony.

Centre-left leader Romano Prodi, whose lead over Berlusconi had been narrowing in recent opinion polls, seized on the controversy as proof of extremism within Berlusconi’s House of Freedom coalition.

"It should not have waited until we were forced to count the dead to take action," Prodi said.

Stone-throwing protesters in Benghazi set fire to the Danish flag and cars and clashed with police as they forced their way into the Italian consulate, the only Western diplomatic mission in the Libyan coastal city. They also started a fire on the building’s first floor.

The cartoons were first published in Denmark but have been reprinted by newspapers in Italy and across Europe.

The clashes were the bloodiest protest yet after weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations over the cartoons by Muslims across the world. Muslims believe images of the Prophet are forbidden.    
 
Source: Reuters

http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/425822/662223
Cartoon-wearing minister resigns

Feb 19, 2006

An Italian minister who wore a T-shirt on state television featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that have outraged Muslims resigned on Saturday after a deadly attack on the Italian consulate in Libya.

A powerful charity led by a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had blamed Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli for Friday’s violence, in which at least 11 people were killed. The protest was the bloodiest so far over caricatures that Muslims regard as blasphemous.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and politicians from across Italy’s political spectrum had called on Calderoli, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, to step down, accusing him of stoking Muslim anger by reproducing the cartoons on a T-shirt he proudly wore on television this week.

Calderoli said in a statement he had quit out of a "sense of responsibility and certainly not because it was demanded by the government and the opposition".

"I don’t intend to allow further the shameful manipulation which is being brought to bear against me and against the Northern League from members of the ruling coalition," he added, following a meeting with Northern League party leaders.

Italian officials said at least 11 people died and nearly 40 were wounded when protesters stormed the Italian consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

Libya’s General People’s Congress fired Interior Minister Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdallah and Benghazi police chiefs on Saturday, saying "disproportionate force" had been used to disperse the protesters.

Calderoli, a 49-year old dentist from the northern city of Bergamo, who has called the T-shirts a "battle for freedom" and is known for his inflammatory statements against immigrants and Muslims, said he could not be blamed for Friday’s events.

"What happened in Libya has nothing to do with my T-shirt. The problem is different … What is at stake is Western civilisation," he told daily La Repubblica.

The Gaddafi Foundation, chaired by Gaddafi’s influential son Saif al Islam, had urged Rome to take firm action against Calderoli, calling him a "racist full of hatred".

"If the Italian government fails to do so, Italian relations with Libya will go through a serious and crucial stage during which these ties will be reassessed and reviewed," it said.

Under Italy’s constitution, the prime minister does not have the power to force a minister out of office and can only ask him to step down.

But the Italian foreign ministry said it had been reassured by Libya’s deputy foreign minister that the violence would have no repercussions on ties between the countries.
 
Embarrassment

The row has embarrassed Berlusconi ahead of April elections in which he wants to portray himself as a force of moderation within the centre-right. It also follows years of warming relations with Libya, which Rome once ruled as a colony.

Centre-left leader Romano Prodi, whose lead over Berlusconi had been narrowing in recent opinion polls, seized on the controversy as proof of extremism within Berlusconi’s House of Freedom coalition.

"It should not have waited until we were forced to count the dead to take action," Prodi said.

Stone-throwing protesters in Benghazi set fire to the Danish flag and cars and clashed with police as they forced their way into the Italian consulate, the only Western diplomatic mission in the Libyan coastal city. They also sta
rted a fire on the building’s first floor.

The cartoons were first published in Denmark but have been reprinted by newspapers in Italy and across Europe.

The clashes were the bloodiest protest yet after weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations over the cartoons by Muslims across the world. Muslims believe images of the Prophet are forbidden.   
 
Source: Reuters

http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/425822/662223