British PM David Cameron rebuts Pope Francis on speech offensive to religion

WASHINGTON (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron defended the right to speech that gives offence to others' religious beliefs, in a rebuttal to Pope Francis who said there should be limits.

In an interview that aired on United States network CBS Sunday morning talk show Face the Nation, Cameron said the West must show that its values, like free speech, are stronger than those of Islamist extremists pursuing a "poisonous death cult narrative".

"I think in a free society, there is a right to cause offence about someone's religion. I'm a Christian. If someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive but in a free society I don't have a right to wreak my vengeance upon them," he said.

"We have to accept that newspapers, magazines can publish things that are offensive to some as long as it's within the law."

Cameron, who was interviewed after his meeting here Friday with US President Barack Obama, was responding to the pope's comments suggesting that religion should be off limits.

"There are limits," the pope said in Manila Thursday, weighing in on a debate set off in the wake of a deadly attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that have angered many in the Muslim world.

Twelve people, including some of France's best known cartoonists, were killed January 7 by two gunmen who stormed its office. In all, 17 people were killed in three days of related attacks in Paris.

"You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people's faith, you cannot mock it," the pontiff said. "Freedom of speech is a right and a duty that must be displayed without offending."

Charlie Hebdo's new editor in chief, meanwhile, defended the caricatures in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press.

"Every time we draw a cartoon of Mohammed, every time we draw a cartoon of prophets, every time we draw a cartoon of God, we defend the freedom of religion," the editor Gerard Biard. "Yes, it's also the freedom of speech, but it's the freedom of religion. Religion should not be a political argument."

"If God becomes entangled in politics, then democracy is in danger," Biard added.