Cartoon Furor In Sweden, England

Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds, at a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday, March 21, 2006, at which she resigned following accusations of lying to the media about the shutting down of a far-right Web site that solicited cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. AP Photo/SCANPIX

The ripple effect continues from the cartoons published in Denmark with caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

In Sweden Tuesday, a cabinet member resigned in a flap over the shutdown of a Web site that had been soliciting cartoons depicting Muhammad, in defiance of protests by Muslims around the world who are offended by sketches of their religion's holiest prophet.

Meanwhile in England, the Anglican church in Wales, reports CBS News London correspondent Larry Miller, is trying to recall copies of its magazine because it contains a cartoon poking fun at the controversy.

The cartoon shows Muhammad sitting on a cloud, apparently in heaven with Christian and Jewish religious figures. The caption reads: "Don't complain – we've all been caricatured here."

The church sent out hundreds of copies of its magazine, with the cartoon in question, before deciding that it shouldn't have. It's now asking subscribers to send back their copies, and says it hopes the cartoon won't harm relations with Muslims.

In Stockholm Tuesday, Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds resigned following accusations that she lied to the media about the shutting down of a far-right Web site that solicited cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Freivalds said at a news conference she could not stay in the government in the "current situation." Prime Minister Goran Persson said Freivalds would be temporarily replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Bo Ringholm.

Freivalds, 63, had been criticized in the media and by opposition politicians for the shutting down of the Web site of a far-right party that was planning to publish caricatures of Muhammad.

The site was closed Feb. 9 after a Foreign Ministry official contacted the Web hosting company, which critics said was an intrusion on the freedom of speech.

The ministry said the official had not the ordered company to shut down the site, but merely advised it that the caricatures could pose a danger to Swedes, given the Muslim anger directed at the time toward neighboring Denmark, where the original prophet cartoons were published.

Freivalds had told Swedish media she did not order the ministry official to contact the company, but a later report from the ministry said she was involved in the decision, sparking calls for her resignation.

"I believe that in the current situation it is impossible for me to carry out a serious job," Freivalds told reporters at a hastily called news conference with Persson.

The prime minister said he had not pressured Freivalds to resign.

Calls for her resignation started already in December, after a government-commissioned report held her partly responsible for the government's slow response to the 2004, South Asian tsunami, which killed tens of thousands of people, including more than 500 vacationing Swedes. Many observers have considered the foreign minister a burden for the Social Democratic government, as it seeks re-election in September.

It was the second time Freivalds stepped down from a Social Democratic government. In 2000 she resigned as justice minister amid reports she was trying to buy an apartment she was renting in Stockholm, while spearheading government efforts to stop apartments with rental contracts from being sold.

The government feared that sales of public housing apartments to private owners would force low-income families to move out of downtown areas.

She was brought back into the government in 2003 to replace Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was stabbed to death in a Stockholm department store.

"She has been a consistent and forceful foreign minister who stood by the government and Sweden in a time marked by sorrow after the murder of Anna Lindh," Persson said about Freivalds. "I am very grateful that she took on the task of becoming foreign minister and have all the reason to emphasize her efforts for our country."
  • Francie Grace

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