Two ministers out over clashes in Libya

Saturday 18 February 2006 15.49
Two ministers out over clashes in Libya

The row over controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad has forced two ministers out of their jobs in Europe and the Middle East after clashes between police and protesters claimed 11 lives in Libya.

Initially resisting calls for his resignation, Italian Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli stepped down after he was widely blamed for bloody clashes in Libya over cartoons of the Prophet, which he had made into T-shirts and wore on television.

In Tripoli, the General People's Congress fired Interior Minister Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdallah and police chiefs in Benghazi saying disproportionate force had been used to disperse protesters who tried to storm the Italian consulate.

The Congress hailed the dead as martyrs and declared Sunday a day of mourning across Libya.

Italian diplomats in Tripoli said Libyan authorities had told them at least 11 were dead and nearly 40 wounded.

As thousands of Muslims rallied in central London to keep up the cycle of cartoon protests around the world, there was fresh bloodshed in Pakistan when four people were wounded in gunfire at a demonstration in the central region.

Protests in Pakistan this week have resulted in at least five deaths, and on Friday it became the latest country where Denmark has decided to temporarily close its embassy. Denmark urged any Danes in Pakistan to leave as soon as possible.

In a bid to harness the escalating violence, Pakistan has banned protests in Islamabad. As the ban was introduced the country's main Islamist alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, said it would go ahead with its Sunday demonstration,

The cartoons were first published in Denmark in September but last month newspapers in Europe and elsewhere republished them to assert freedom of expression.