TEHRAN - Iran condemned Wednesday the publication of a new cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying it was "insulting" and "provocative".
In defiance of Islamist gunmen who killed its staff last week, Charlie Hebdo's first edition since pictured a tearful Mohammed on its front page holding a sign saying "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie").
The prophet is shown under the ambiguous headline "All is forgiven." Iran, an Islamic republic, denounced the massacre of 12 people at the magazine's Paris office the day it occurred, a stance repeated by foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham on Wednesday.
The killings bore "no closeness or similarity to Islam" and were "in complete contradiction to Islamic teaching," she said.
However the new cartoon "provokes the emotions of Muslims around the world and hurts their feelings, and could fan the flame of a vicious circle of extremism," she told reporters.
Afkham said the cover image was an "abuse of freedom of speech, which is common in the West these days." "We condemn provocative moves and we regard the move by this weekly as being insulting," Afkham said, describing it as "not acceptable" and arguing that such "abuse should be prevented".
"Respecting the beliefs and values of followers of divine religions is an acceptable principle," she added.
The cartoonist Renald "Luz" Luzier said he cried after drawing the new image of Mohammed.
Charlie Hebdo has angered Muslims in the past by printing cartoons lampooning the prophet and Islam.
Most followers of Islam feel any depiction of the prophet is sacrilege and the cartoon has already triggered strong reactions in the Muslim world.
The issue is notable in Iran because the leader of its 1979 Islamic revolution Ruhollah Khomeini declared a fatwa urging the killing of Salman Rushdie, the British-Indian writer, for allegedly insulting Islam with his 1988 book "The Satanic Verses".
The new cartoon from Charlie Hebdo has raised fears of a repeat of the violent 2006 protests over the cartoons of Mohammed printed in Danish daily Jyllands-Posten.
Some Iranian media outlets reacted angrily to the latest cartoon of the prophet. Ya Lesserat, the weekly publication of the ultra-conservative Ansar Hezbollah political group, drew a parallel with Rushdie.
"The successful mass execution of the infidels of Charlie Hebdo is a sign... to those who have forgotten the verdict against Salman Rushdie and have forgotten these past nine years the crimes committed by the infidels of Charlie Hebdo," it said.
Iranian state broadcaster IRIB said on its website the new cartoon of the prophet "has completed the insult of Daesh," using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS) militant group fighting in Iraq and Syria.