International tension grows over Wilders’ film

International pressure on the Netherlands over the controversial anti-Koran film by Dutch MP Geert Wilders is growing, despite the Dutch prime minister’s reassurances in parliament on Wednesday that Europe and Islamic countries are appreciative of the active stance taken by the Dutch government on the issue.

On Wednesday Reuters news service reported that Iran’s deputy foreign minister said the Netherlands has the power to stop Wilders from screening the film about the Koran which has already sparked protests in the Muslim world.
‘The Netherlands is responsible …they can stop it,’ Mahdi Safari told Reuters, urging the Dutch government to invoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of speech should not stretch to allowing Wilders to offend the rights of others, he added.
‘If such a man will insist on this it is irresponsible for the world and society,” Safari told journalists at a briefing after meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, reports Reuters.
Both Safari and Iran’s ambassador to the Netherlands Bozorgmehr Ziaran said they could not predict the reaction of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims to the film, or prevent possible violence. ‘Why would you expect us to control 1.2 billion Muslims when you cannot control one person,’ Ziaran is quoted as saying. He added Wilders sought to violate Muslim’s rights by demonising them, and was a war-monger and troublemaker.
On Wednesday Pakistani police in Peshawar used tear gas and truncheons to break up student protests against the Wilders film, reports ANP news service.
Speaking to MPs on Wednesday Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he would again stress the importance of freedom of expression during the upcoming EU summit later this week in Brussels.
Balkenende said it is not necessary for the EU to formulate a joint statement on the right of the freedom of expression in advance of the film’s release.
Meanwhile Wilders has told the media that his short film will not be presented at a press conference although he will be available to answer journalists’ questions when the film is released on the internet. The 15-minute film is due to be released on March 28.

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