updated 2/7/2006 5:26:21 PM ET 2006-02-07T22:26:21

A prominent Iranian newspaper said it would hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

About 50 protesters, meanwhile, hurled firebombs and stones at the Norwegian Embassy in Iran’s capital, the second straight day of violent protests against European missions in Tehran. A small fire outside the embassy was contained quickly, but the protest continued.

Hamshahri, one of Iran’s largest papers, made clear the contest is a reaction to European newspapers’ publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which have led to demonstrations, boycotts and attacks on European embassies across the Islamic world. Several people have been killed.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the proposed contest “outrageous.”

“Any attempt to mock or to in any way denigrate the horror that was the Holocaust is simply outrageous,” McCormack said.

“You can almost hear President Ahmadinejad's voice in the editor of this particular newspaper making this proposal,” he said.

The newspaper said the contest would be launched Monday and co-sponsored by the House of Caricatures, a Tehran exhibition center for cartoons. The paper and the cartoon center are owned by the Tehran Municipality, which is dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, well-known for his opposition to Israel.

‘Wiped off the map’
Ahmadinejad, who was Tehran’s mayor until being elected president in June, provoked outcries last year when he said on separate occasions that Israel should be “wiped off the map” and the Holocaust was a “myth.”

Slideshow: View the cartoons that started it all Iran said last month it would sponsor a conference to examine the scientific evidence supporting the Holocaust, an apparent attempt to give voice to Holocaust deniers.

Hamshahri invited foreign cartoonists to enter the competition.

“Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?” Hamshahri wrote, referring to the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

First publication in September
The cartoons were first published by a Danish newspaper in September. As Muslim protests mounted, numerous European newspapers have reprinted them in recent days in the name of free expression, provoking wider and angrier protests.

The drawings — including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb — have touched a raw nerve in part because Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.

Hundreds of Iranians hurled stones, and sometimes gasoline bombs, at the Danish and Austrian embassies in Tehran in protest against the cartoons Monday. Austria currently holds the European Union presidency.

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