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Denmark to oppose debt relief for Sudan over Prophet Muhammad cartoon dispute
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    COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark said Thursday it will oppose any debt relief deal for Sudan in response to the Sudanese president’s comments urging the Muslim world to boycott Danish goods over the publication of a Prophet Muhammad cartoon.
    Interior Minister Ulla Toernaes said she summoned Sudan’s ambassador to Denmark to demand an explanation of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s comments a day earlier.
    Al-Bashir said Wednesday that he would bar Danes from Sudan and told tens of thousands of people at a government-backed rally in Khartoum that the Muslim world should boycott Denmark because of a cartoon reprinted recently in Danish newspapers.
    Danish newspapers reprinted a cartoon showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban on Feb. 13 to show their commitment to freedom of speech after police uncovered a plot to kill the artist who drew it.
    The drawing was one of 12 cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper in 2006 that triggered major protests in Muslim countries. The republication again sparked protests in several Muslim countries, including Sudan.
    Sudan owes Denmark nearly $405 million and after Sudan’s government and southern rebels signed a peace agreement in 2005, international donors said they would consider debt relief.
    But now, ‘‘in the international talks about a possible debt relief to Sudan, it will be Denmark’s point of view that Sudan should not get such a debt relief agreement,’’ Toernaes told the online edition of the Berlingske Tidende newspaper.
    However, she said Denmark would not cut development aid to Sudan. ‘‘Our support is not a support to the Sudanese president or, for that matter, to the government,’’ Toernaes said.
    Sudan is one of the largest recipients of Danish aid, receiving $26 million in aid in 2006. A $100 million humanitarian and reconstruction package is planned through 2009.
    ‘‘It surprises me that Sudan’s government apparently is willing to cut the cooperation with a donor like Denmark on development aid because of a caricature in Danish newspapers,’’ Toernaes told the newspaper.
    She could not be reached for comment Thursday but her office confirmed that the quotes were correct.

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