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Associated Press
ROSKILDE, Denmark – The Muslim outcry over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad last year is a closed chapter that no longer affects Denmark’s image abroad, the prime minister said in an interview Friday.
On Nov. 13, the Scandinavian country will hold its first election since the cartoon crisis in early 2006 when Danish embassies and flags were torched by furious mobs from Lebanon to Indonesia.
“I think honestly that people have forgotten the cartoon crisis,” Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told The Associated Press. “It’s not really an issue any longer, at least not for the man on the street. Denmark is very well reputed in all respects.”
Ironically, Fogh Rasmussen could find himself choosing between two of Denmark’s leading voices during the cartoon controversy as he seeks partners to keep his center-right coalition in power.
Since 2001, his Liberal-Conservative government has relied on the support of the nationalist Danish People’s Party, which routinely warns that Islam poses a threat to Danish values. One of the party’s campaign posters shows an artist’s hand drawing a picture of Muhammad.
However, Fogh Rasmussen said he did not rule out seeking backing instead from the New Alliance, a party led by Syrian-born Nasser Khader, who formed a network of moderate Muslims during the cartoon crisis.
“I would be willing to cooperate with all political parties that support the continuation of my government,” the prime minister said in an interview on his campaign bus.
The fiery protests that swept Muslim countries in January and February 2006 were a reaction to a Danish newspaper’s decision to publish 12 caricatures of Muhammad in what it said was a challenge to self-censorship among artists dealing with Islamic issues.
Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Fogh Rasmussen refused to comment on the threat of a terror attack against Denmark even though the country is often mentioned as a possible target on extremist Web sites, and Danish police have foiled two alleged terror plots since the cartoon furor.
“Concerning the cartoon crisis, I would just consider it a symbol for the fight for free press, free speech, freedom of expression,” he said.
“Denmark has a very good reputation all over the world. Of course you may find dictatorships in which Denmark is not well reputed. I don’t think that’s a problem.”
Polls suggest Fogh Rasmussen could stay in power either with the support of the Danish People’s Party or another partner. He called the early election for Nov. 13 to take advantage of a slump in support for left-leaning opposition parties led by the Social Democrats.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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