Cairo: Five years after angry Muslim protests, Denmark Wednesday apologised for the printing of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). “Denmark is against any repeat of such bids that cause rifts among people of the world,” Danish Foreign MinisterLene Espersen told a joint press with Egypt’s top Muslim cleric after one-hour talks.

“Denmark is keen to maintain good ties with all Muslim countries,” she added as she sat next to Ahmad Al Tayeb, the Grand Shaikh of Al Azhar, which is the Sunni world’s prestigious seat of learning.

The printing of drawings mocking the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in late 2005 triggered fury across the Muslim world, where some countries boycotted Danish goods in protest.

During her press conference Wednesday, Espersen denied that her visit to Al Azhar and talks with its sheikh were meant to allay Muslim fears after threats to the much maligned Danish cartoonist. “My country believes in freedom of expression, but also respects all religions,” she said.

Meanwhile, Shaikh Al Tayeb, who was appointed in the post last March, said that the Danish official was keen to make the apology in public. “She also cited her country’s efforts to enact a law criminalising contempt of religions,” he added.

The top cleric declined to apologise for the angry — sometimes violent- reactions of the Muslims to the cartoons. “I sensed that the minister feels ashamed of these drawings. She asserted to me they were an individual act, which did not express the Danish people’s and government’s beliefs.”