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    Iran rejects claims of inflaming Mohammed cartoon sentiments

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    JAKARTA, February 9 (RIA Novosti, Mikhail Tsyganov) - Iran's vice president rejected Thursday claims that his country was inflaming Muslim sentiments over the controversial publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in media worldwide.

    In response to comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Iran and Syria were exploiting the row in their interests, Isfandiar Rahim Mashaee told reporters in Indonesia, "That is 100 percent a lie."

    Many politicians and analysts have suggested that Iran is using the cartoons of Mohammed, any depiction of whom prohibited under Islamic law, to shore up its position in the Muslim world in the face of condemnation from the international community for resuming nuclear research programs. The cartoons were originally published in a Danish newspaper in September but have subsequently been reprinted in several other countries this year, as editors have sought to protect press freedom against protests from Muslim groups. However, the republication has provoked protests throughout the Muslim world, which led to the Danish Embassy in Lebanon being ransacked on Monday.

    Against the backdrop of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comments that the military option against Iran remained on the table, Vice President of Indonesia Yusuf Kalla condemned Washington's threats against Iran, saying that no country could or must punish another country only on the grounds of suspicions.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced religious provocations on Tuesday, saying they were unacceptable.

    "We condemn any such actions, whichever side they may come from," he said. "We also condemn such cartoons, which add to the division between religions, insult the feelings of believers and provoke them."

    Images (cartoon crisis: Muslims of the world say "No!")

    Images (Iran: the cartoon-inspired violence)

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