EU warns Saudi Arabia that it could take Danish boycott to WTO

Boycott a response to Danish paper's publication of cartoons that 'insulted' the prophet Mohammed.

danish flag burns 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
danish flag burns 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has warned Saudi Arabia that it would take WTO action if the Riyadh government supported a boycott of Danish goods, the European Commission said Monday. A Danish newspaper's publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad has led to tension between Denmark and some Muslim countries. Mandelson told the Saudi Minister of State that any Danish boycott would be a boycott of the European Union. "He made it clear that if the Saudi government had encouraged the boycott, Commissioner Mandelson would regret having to take the issue to the WTO," said EU spokesman Peter Power. The Saudi minister told Mandelson that the government had not encouraged the boycott. Denmark told Riyadh that it did not support the incitement of racial hatred but could not condemn the free expression of the press. The Danish foreign ministry has warned Danes in the Middle East to take care. Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Denmark last week, and Libya has closed its embassy in the Danish capital. The 12 drawings - published in September by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and republished in a Norwegian paper this month - included an image of the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, even respectful ones, out of concern that such images could lead to idolatry. On Monday, masked gunmen took over an EU office in Gaza City to protest the caricatures. Consumers in many predominantly Muslim countries were boycotting Danish goods. Denmark-based dairy group Arla Foods said the consumer boycott of its products in the Middle East was almost total. Arla Foods products have been removed from shop shelves in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Europe's largest dairy group said. The Middle East is Arla Foods' main market outside Europe. Arla Foods has 2.6 billion kroner (€350 million; US$430 million) in annual sales in the Middle East and about 1,000 employees in the region.