BEIJING, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- France kept alert on possible anti-France protests, closing its diplomatic missions and schools in some Islamic countries Wednesday after a French weekly published cartoons mocking the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.
The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that France had decided to temporarily close its embassies, consulates, cultural centers and schools in more than 20 Islamic countries as precautions against any possible troubles caused by the cartoons.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius asked the governments of those countries where problems may occur to take special security measures to protect French diplomat missions and other premises in the countries, while urging French diplomats and nationals in the countries to keep alert.
Speaking to France Info radio, Fabius expressed worries over the cartoons' publication in weekly Charlie Hebdo amid outrage over a U.S. movie that sparked deadly protests all over the world.
"I'm very worried ... and when I saw this I immediately issued instructions for special security precautions to be taken in all the countries where it could be a problem," the minister said.
French weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday portrayed Prophet Mohammed naked in cartoons, exacerbating the anger in the Islamic world.
The French embassy in Tunisia said on Wednesday that France had decided to close its schools in Tunisia until Monday, and the decision, which took effect immediately on Wednesday, concerned some 10 French schools throughout the country.
"The embassy and all ancillary services will also be closed as of Friday, Sept. 21," it said, adding France has "asked Tunisian authorities to reinforce security around its premises."
In a communique released Saturday, Tunisia's authorities committed themselves to taking all necessary measures to protect diplomatic and consular missions, as well as foreign schools and nationals on its territory.
The communique was issued one day after the U.S. embassy was attacked by angry mobs protesting the anti-Islam film. A nearby U.S. school was torched and looted.
The French embassy in Cairo also took more security measures to prevent clashes after the French magazine published the satirical cartoons, Egypt's state media reported on Wednesday.
The embassy asked Egypt "to continue to secure its buildings in accordance with the international agreements," official MENA news agency said.
"Although there has been no specific threat in Egypt, it has been decided as a precaution, to close French schools and cultural centers in Egypt on Thursday and re-open them on Sunday," the embassy said in a statement.
Arab League (AL) Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi condemned the provocation by the French magazine of publishing the cartoons, describing it as odious and warning it will increasingly complicate the raging situation in the Arab and Islamic world.
The AL said religious offences are characterized by racism and breed violence and terrorism, calling on all humanitarian societies to understand, tolerate and respect other cultures.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also condemned the publication, urging all people to act in the spirit of responsibility. He said in a statement that "the freedom of expression is an essential principle of the French republic, and should be practiced in light of law."
Last November, the French weekly's office was set on fire after publishing caricatures mocking Prophet Mohammed.
Muslims in France also have been urged not to be dragged into any acts of violence in response to these provocations, but to express their anger peacefully.
About 5 million Muslims are living in France, the largest population in Europe.
PARIS, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- France would close its embassies and schools in some 20 countries around world as measures to strengthen security after a French satirical weekly published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, local media reported on Wednesday.
Speaking to France Info radio, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius expressed worries over the cartoons' publication in weekly Charlie Hebdo amid outrage over an anti-Islam movie that sparked deadly protests all over the world. Full story