European Union and religious leaders urge mutual respect for beliefs, freedoms

Brussels, Belgium — European Union and religious leaders called for greater mutual respect of religious beliefs and democratic freedoms at talks in the wake of violent protests over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The talks last week involved 16 religious leaders from Christianity, Islam and Judaism as well as Buddhism's Dalai Lama.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, the EU president, co-chaired the sessions with

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

"All the speakers of Islamic communities repeated they understand the concerns of European citizens to defend their freedoms, to defend their rights of expression, of publication ... and of course on the other side there was a clear will to understand the sensitivity of religious symbols and feelings," Schuessel told reporters.

Barroso said all participants agreed the problem over the drawings was "not about Islam," but finding a balance between freedoms and respect for other points of view.

The Brussels-based Rabbinical Center of Europe complained because the two Jewish representatives were Ashkenazi, and did not fully represent Europe's Sephardic community.