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Danish cheese, butter back in Saudi stores

Fri., April 7, 2006

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Cheese and butter from the Danish company Arla were back on supermarket shelves Thursday in Saudi Arabia after an Islamic group ended a boycott of the dairy producer sparked by Denmark’s publication of drawings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The company said its products were now selling in 3,000 shops and supermarkets in the Middle East.

Shelves at El-Ethem market in downtown Riyadh, the Saudi capital, displayed various Arla products Thursday, although there was no rush from buyers.

Another 31 retailers in Saudi Arabia promised to resume sales of Arla goods on Saturday. Its products still were unavailable Thursday in two major Jordanian supermarkets and the shelves of Kuwaiti state cooperatives.

Saudi stores began restocking Arla products after the International Committee for the Support of the Final Prophet gave the company the green light and praised the measures it had taken to distance itself from the Prophet Muhammad caricatures that provoked mass demonstrations and riots across the Muslim world in January and February.

Arla had taken out newspaper advertisements condemning the publication of the cartoons and pledged to fund projects helping disabled children and cancer victims in the Middle East.

“We must differentiate between those who insulted us and those who stood by us,” said Soliman Albuthi, spokesman for the International Committee for the Support of the Final Prophet, which is based in Washington.

The group said its recommendation to end the Arla boycott would help Danish Muslims who had suffered discrimination in a backlash because of the boycott.

It also referred to the conference of Muslim scholars in Bahrain last month, which played a leading role. The conference expressed appreciation for Arla’s “bold stance,” saying “it was a good start for opening a dialogue with this organization to establish a common ground to reach a common understanding.”

Arla estimates it has lost as much as $65 million because of the boycott, which began in January. The company produces milk, powdered milk, cheese and butter.


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