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Saturday, September 16, 2006

ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called on Pope Benedict XVI to apologise for his "unfortunate, ugly" remarks on Islam, adding his voice to a growing international condemnation of the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

"I believe it is a must for (the pope) to retract his erraneous, ugly and unfortunate remarks and apologise both to the Islamic world and Muslims," Erdogan said in televised remarks.

"It is not possible for us to accept his remarks. It is not possible for the Islamic World to accept his remarks and I believe it not possible for the Christian, Catholic world to accept his remarks," he added.

"I hope he rapidly amends the mistake he has made so as not to overshadow the dialogue between civilisations and religions," Erdogan said.

Asked whether the pope's statement would affect his planned visit in late November to mainly Muslim but strictly secular Turkey, Erdogan said: "I would not know."

The pope's reference to Islam and jihad, or holy war in a university lecture last week touching on the relationship between religion and violence during a visit to Germany, has caused widespread anger in the Muslim world.

Quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor on the Prophet Mohammed, founder of the Muslim faith, the pope said: "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached'."

The pope's spokesman said later Benedict respected Islam but rejected violence motivated by religion.

His comments also unleashed a wave of anger in Turkey, a country aspiring to join the European Union and often seen as a model where Islam and democracy co-exist.

On Friday, a lawmaker from Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots, said the pope would go down in history "in the same category as Hitler and Mussolini.

Benedict had already angered Turks when he was still a cardinal by voicing opposition to Turkey's bid for European Union membership, which Ankara argues would bring the East and West closer and prove that people from different religions can live together.

09/16/2006 12:51 GMT

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