Pope's Regret Accepted by Malaysian Prime Minister

Pope Benedict XVI's expression of regret following his remarks on Islam and violence is acceptable, but the pontiff should avoid making future comments that could offend Muslims, Malaysia's prime minister said.

"I think we can accept it and we hope there are no more statements that can anger the Muslims," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told Malaysian journalists late Monday in New York, where he is attending the U.N. General Assembly.

Malaysia, which chairs the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world's biggest Muslim bloc, previously demanded that the pope offer a full apology and retract what he said.

Abdullah's comments, carried Tuesday by the national news agency Bernama, came after he met with U.S. President George W. Bush, who told the Malaysian leader he believed that Benedict was sincere in apologizing following the angry response of Muslims to his recent speech.

"When I touched on the matter during our discussions just now, I noted that it sparked intense reactions because the one who uttered it was the pope himself," Abdullah said. "The pope is not just any other person. That's why there has been much anger."

Benedict has said he "sincerely regrets" offending Muslims with his reference in a speech last week in Germany to an obscure medieval text that characterizes some of the teachings of Islam's founder as "evil and inhuman."

He said Sunday that he was "deeply sorry" about the angry reaction and that the remarks came from a text that didn't reflect his own opinion.

But the statement stopped short of the apology demanded by Islamic leaders around the globe amid one of the biggest international crises involving the Holy See in decades.