German conservatives defend pope over his remarks

A senior German conservative defended Pope Benedict XVI Saturday over his disputed remarks on Islam, accusing critics of trying to intimidate the West. The German-born pope was calling for dialogue between cultures and religions, said Ronald Pofalla, general secretary of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. "All those attacking him now don't want dialogue but rather an intimidated and silenced West!" Pofalla said in a statement. Benedict's remarks Tuesday on Islam and jihad unleashed rage and calls for an apology across the Muslim world. However, Pofalla said some comparisons made with the pope could "in no way be accepted" - an apparent reference to Turkey's ruling party likening the pontiff to Hitler and Mussolini. "The goal of all discussion is a dialogue among equals. We are ready for that - fundamentalist circles on the Islamic side apparently are not," he said. He urged all social groups to read properly Benedict's speech, made during a visit to southern Germany, and avoid leaving the field free for those who "knowingly misunderstand and embellish the pope's words." Merkel stressed on Friday that the pope had been calling for dialogue. "What Benedict XVI makes clear is a decisive and uncompromising rejection of any use of violence in the name of religion," she said.