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      Tunisia Bans Friday Protests Following Mohammed Cartoons

      Tunisia to ban all demonstrations on Friday, after receiving a tip-off about preparations for violence over cartoons of Mohammed.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 9/21/2012, 4:14 AM

      Tunisian Salafists shout slogans outside the El-Fath mosque in Tunis on September 17
      Tunisian Salafists shout slogans outside the El-Fath mosque in Tunis on September 17
      AFP/File

      Tunisia announced it was banning all demonstrations on Friday, after receiving a tip-off about preparations for violence over cartoons of the prophet Mohammed published by a French satirical weekly.

      "The interior ministry, using its powers under the state of emergency and in order to maintain public order, announces that it is outlawing any form of demonstration anywhere in Tunisian territory on Friday," a ministry statement quoted by AFP said.

      "The ministry notes that it has received information suggesting the protests would be exploited for the purpose of committing acts of violence and causing unrest," the statement added.

      Calls for Friday protests were circulating on social networks following the publication by French weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday of cartoons featuring obscene images of the founder of Islam.

      The interior ministry called on "all Tunisians and civil society to demonstrate understanding" and "urge (people) not to follow the call" to protest.

      The ministry of religion also urged Tunisians to avoid falling into the trap of "deliberate provocation" that it said were what the controversial cartoons amounted to.

      "They are a deliberate provocation designed to offend the religious sensibilities of Muslims, with the aim of fomenting trouble in Arab Spring countries," it said in a statement.

      France said on Wednesday it will temporarily close its embassies and schools in around 20 countries on Friday, fearing a violent reaction to the cartoons.

      Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that he was concerned by the satirical cartoons and announced that he had ordered special security measures "in all the countries where this could pose a problem.”

      Ennahda, Tunisia's ruling Islamist party, responded to the printing of the cartoons by saying Muslims had "the right to protest" against them, as long as they do so peacefully.

      "Ennahda backs the right of Muslims to protest and calls on the use of peaceful and civilized means," the party, which heads Tunisia's governing coalition, said, according to AFP.

      At the same the party branded the cartoons "a new attack against the prophet."