COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Denmark has temporarily withdrawn its ambassador and other Danish staff from Syria because they were not getting enough protection from authorities, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
The building housing the embassy in Damascus was burned last week by an angry mob protesting the Prophet Mohammad cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper.
The Foreign Ministry said it has been pulling out Danish staff since then, and the ambassador left on Friday. “The de-escalation of the protection of the ambassador and his staff to an inadequate level is the reason for the departure,” the ministry said in a statement. It said the German Embassy in Damascus would handle Denmark’s consular services for the time being.
Sweden, whose embassy is in the same building in the Syrian capital, said it did not have any immediate plans to withdraw staff, said Jan Janonius, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm.
Denmark temporarily closed its diplomatic mission in Lebanon earlier this week after similar protests there.
The small Scandinavian country is shell-shocked by the wave of anti-Danish protests, some of them violent, that have spread like wildfire across the Muslim world. Danish paper Jyllands-Posten, which published the cartoons in September, apologized for offending Muslims but stood by its decision to print the drawings, citing the freedom of speech.
Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of Mohammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.
Many Danes suspect a group of Danish Islamic leaders helped stir rage in the Muslim world with visits to the Mideast and inflammatory comments to Arabic media.
The Muslim leaders deny responsibility for fueling the flames, and have repeatedly denounced the violence.
The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, which supports the government in Parliament, on Friday urged the government to withdraw the citizenship of three of the front-figures of the group.