The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, has begun a tour of the Middle East to try to ease tensions over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Speaking in the Saudi city of Jeddah in a joint news conference after meeting the head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Mr Solana said the EU would do its utmost to avoid a repeat of the cartoons row.

However, he stopped short of endorsing a call by the OIC for the European Parliament to pass legislation against blaspheming any religion.