A French magazine published caricatures of the Islamic prophet Mohammad in its latest edition, sparking more outrage among Muslims already upset over an anti-Islam film posted on the Internet.
Some of the satirical cartoons show Mohammad naked and in sexual poses. The publication was released Wednesday.
French Prime Minister Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault condemned the magazine and called the cartoons "a catastrophe."
The publication came amid days of violent protests in the Muslim world over "Innocence of Muslims," an anti-Islam film produced in the United States that negatively portrays the Muhammad.
"In France there is a principle of freedom of expression, which should not be undermined," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "In the present context, given this absurd video that has been aired, strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries. Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?"
French embassies and schools in about 20 countries were closed Wednesday as a precautionary measure.
On Wednesday, the French Foreign Ministry also issued a travel warning urging French citizens in the Muslim world to exercise "the greatest vigilance," avoiding public gatherings and "sensitive buildings."