Australian PM 'rather likes' new Charlie Hebdo cover

Australian PM 'rather likes' new Charlie Hebdo cover
Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday he "rather likes" the cartoon depiction of the Prophet Mohammed on Charlie Hebdo's latest cover, adding that it represented a "spirit of forgiveness".

The French satirical magazine published a picture of a weeping Mohammed under the title "All is forgiven", holding up a sign reading "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie") in its first issue since many of its staff were killed in a gun attack last week in Paris.

Abbott said while he was not sure if everything published by Charlie Hebdo was to his taste, he "rather like that cartoon" on the new frontpage.

"Now, I rather like that cartoon," the Australian leader told Fairfax radio's 3AW.

"I'm not sure that I would have liked everything that Charlie Hebdo produced but this is a cartoon of the prophet with a tear streaming down his face saying all is forgiven.

"That spirit of forgiveness is what we need more and more in this rancorous modern world." Charlie Hebdo is printing three million copies of the special issue due out Wednesday. It will be offered in 16 languages for readers around the world, the magazine said.

The magazine usually prints 60,000 copies a week, and sells 30,000.

The front page was widely reproduced and reported on by Western media Tuesday but criticised by some Muslims who regard any depiction of Mohammed as blasphemous.

Abbott also brushed aside calls to revive plans to repeal a section of the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it illegal to "offend, insult or humiliate another" because of their race.

Supporters of the proposed changes, which were abandoned by Canberra last year after concerns from ethnic communities, said Tuesday that Charlie Hebdo could not be published in Australia under the existing laws.

"I would prefer that 18c (the section) were not in its current terms but we made an attempt to amend it, it was obvious that that attempt to amend it was generating a lot of division in the community," Abbott said.

"The government made the decision - effectively I made the decision - that we were not going to proceed with it at this time and that remains the government's position."

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