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U.N. rule to bar religious offense sought

CAIRO, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The European Union is debating ideas and measures that might be endorsed by the United Nations to bar the slandering of religions.

EU foreign policy and security commissioner Javier Solana said after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Tuesday the EU and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) "are considering certain ideas to safeguard and protect religious values in general, but the time is not appropriate to disclose the details."

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Solana issued a joint statement Monday with the chief of the Jeddah-based OIC Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu stressing their bid to push for measures at U.N. level to bar tarnishing the reputation of religions following the uproar sparked in the Muslim world by the cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist with a bomb in his turban.

OIC has called on the European Union to introduce laws barring the defamation of religions.

Solana refrained from commenting on the OIC request saying "we should not let the latest developments and events to influence relations between Arabs and Europe, but we need to boost these relations through joint action for surmounting and settling certain problems."

He also called for observing mutual respect between Arab and Muslim countries and the EU.

EU officials have played down the possibility of introducing laws barring slandering of religions, fearing public opinion uproar over undermining the principles of freedom of thought and expression.

Protests, sparked by the cartoons carried in the Danish and Norwegian media, swept the Arab and Muslim world and angry demonstrators burned the embassies of Denmark and Norway in Damascus and Beirut.

President Mubarak called for taking strict measures to avert offending religions and said Egypt is leading a campaign against Denmark for refusing to make an official apology.

In the meantime, Muslim clerics have called for boycotts of products from countries that published the offending cartoons.

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