The State Department criticized on Friday cartoon drawings in Europe of the Prophet Muhammad, calling them "offensive to the beliefs of Muslims."

While recognizing the importance of freedom of the press and expression, department press officer Janelle Hironimus said these rights must be coupled with press responsibility.

There has been a wave of protests throughout the Muslim world in recent days following publication of the cartoon drawings in European newspapers.

"Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable," Hironimus said. "We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices."