Doha: An Islamic group headed by influential cleric Shaikh Yousuf Al Qaradawi on Friday demanded Pope Benedict XVI apologise to Muslims over inflammatory remarks he made in 2006.

The Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars also accused the pope of fuelling “sedition” between Muslims and Christians, in a statement coinciding with the start of the pontiff’s three-day visit to Lebanon.

The union “demands the pope of the Vatican apologise to Muslims over what he said during his speech in Germany... just as he had apologised to Jews,” said the statement issued late on Thursday.

In 2006, Benedict offended Muslims by appearing to link Islam with violence in a speech at his former university in Regensburg, southern Germany.

The union, chaired by Egypt-born Al Qaradawi, said it had “tried to open dialogue with the Vatican” without success and had demanded that he “apologise but he did not.”

It accused Benedict of “fuelling sedition between partners in the same country,” referring to Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, by “planning to sign an apostolic exhortation that contains dangerous messages and ideas.”

The messages included a “warning from the Islamisation of the society and spreading fear among Christians from political Islam in the region,” said the statement.

“It is strange that at the time the pope warns from political Islam, he himself practices large-scale political Christianity,” it added, urging Benedict not to sign the “apostolic exhortation because it carries wrong false information and is intended to cause sedition between Muslims and Christians.”

The pope is expected to sign the final report on a synod of bishops he convened two years ago to study the future of Christians in the Middle East, tackling concern over their exodus.

Lebanon has been riven by sectarian tensions as fighting rages next door in Syria.