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Obasanjo blames media for Miss World riots

Organiser: 'Miss World can be used as a political football'

Obasanjo
President Obasanjo: Irresponsible journalism to blame for riots

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start quoteI'm only sorry that we have done our best, and circumstances beyond our control made those girls to have to leave.end quote
-- Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo
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ABUJA, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo says the media are responsible for the controversy over the Miss World pageant that led to riots in which 220 died.

The riots began last Wednesday after a newspaper article offended Muslims by alleging that had the prophet Muhammad been alive, he would have wanted to marry one of the beauty queens.

Fighting broke out between Muslims and Christians in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna and spread to Abuja, the country's capital and the intended venue for the contest.

Obasanjo told CNN that "irresponsible journalism" in Nigeria was responsible for the violence.

"What happened in Nigeria obviously could have happened at any time that such sensitive and irresponsible remarks are made, at a time like this -- particularly at a time like this, in Nigeria," he said.

"Ramadan is regarded as holy month for all Muslims and it's a period of fasting, a period of prayer. Their brothers and sisters must also respect their sensitivities and their sensibilities.

"Nigerian people did not regard that. It caused what we have now in the country."

Obasanjo said he regretted the contest had left Nigeria.

"I'm only sorry that (due to) circumstances beyond our control those girls had to leave and we regret that they have to leave but we are happy that we have done our best," he said. (Transcript)

Competition denies culpability

On arrival in London on Monday, the chairman of the Miss World competition vigorously denied the beauty pageant had caused the riots.

Julia Morley said the contest had been used as a "political football" and blamed the Nigerian journalist, who wrote the Muhammad article, for inflaming the situation.

Organisers are now searching London for a suitable venue for the event, which is due to go ahead as planned on December 7.

At a news conference, Morley said: "It was not a mistake to hold it in Nigeria. What was a mistake was a journalist making a remark he shouldn't have made.

"I am sad about the riots. But does that mean you can't go anywhere in the world just because there might be a riot?

"Miss World can be used as a political football, sometimes in the name of religion, but usually for politics, if someone has an election coming up."



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