The cartoons were originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten then reprinted by several European papers.

In the Palestinian territories armed groups have threatened to attack Danish, French and Norwegian nationals in retaliation for what they view as an insult to Islam.

In Lebanon Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shia movement Hizb Allah, said that few people would dare to insult Islam if an Iranian religious edict to kill British novelist Salman Rushdie in the late 1980s had been followed through.

"If there had been a Muslim to carry out Imam Khomeini's fatwa against the renegade Salman Rushdie, this rabble who insult our Prophet Muhammad in Denmark, Norway and France would not have dared to do so," he said.

In 1989 Ayat Allah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's revolutionary leader issued a fatwa (religious edict) demanding Rushdie's execution over his best-selling novel the Satanic Verses.

Khomeini had deemed the novel blasphemous and insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

In Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah condemned the publication of the sketches and said it would only give ammunition to those intent on disrupting international relations.

"Printing this is an affront for ... hundreds of millions of people," he said. 

Civilisations of the world needed dialogue, he added, warning that "extremists from all sides" would exploit the controversy to damage that.

Protests

The cartoons have sparked a
growing tide of anger

In Turkey foreign ministry spokesman described the decision to publish the cartoons as "unfortunate", and urged the press in other countries to exercise caution over what it publishes.

In Pakistan, hundreds of students set fire to French and Danish flags in protest at the drawings.

Indonesian Muslims too expressed their anger over the caricatures to a visiting Danish Red Cross official.
 
Dozens of people picketed the governor's office in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province, during a visit by Jorgen Paulsen, the Danish Red Cross secretary-general.
 
The Indonesian state news agency Antara quoted Paulsen telling the protestors that the publication of the 12 sketches was a "stupid action".

However, he added: "Our government cannot stop the press from publishing materials that could offend people because the press is extremely free there."

Paulsen was in Makassar to discuss assistance related to the handling of floods in the province.

Indonesian tabloid Rakyat Merdeka took the controversial step of republishing several of the cartoons on its website, with at least one altered to be less offensive, although it still prompted criticism from a Muslim legislator.

Yuri Thamrin, the Indonesian spokesman for the foreign ministry, said freedom of expression could not justify indignity towards a religion.