Two newspapers that printed controversial cartoons have apologised for causing offence and agreed not to use them again.

The move is likely to save New Zealand from facing trade sanctions, says Federation of Islamic Associations president Javed Khan.

Editors of Fairfax newspapers the Dominion-Post and the Press, Tim Pankhurst and Paul Thompson respectively, told a meeting in Wellington yesterday that they would not publish the cartoons again.

The meeting, hosted by Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres between media, Islamic groups and others, followed protests and outrage internationally over the cartoons - one of which shows the Prophet Muhammad with a turban resembling a bomb.

Mr Khan was disappointed that television did not make the same commitment. TV3 managing director Rick Friesen said it was unlikely it would re-use the cartoons.

"We don't agree not to publish anything so in principle it is a problem for us to say that - that being said is it likely they are going to be seen on the air again? Not likely."

Pankhurst said the apology and commitment not to re-use the cartoons was not a backdown.

"We have agreed to apologise for causing the offence that we have but we don't resile from the fact we did publish in the first place in the context that the reaction had become the story."

Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Murdoch and Mr Khan warned Pankhurst of possible trade issues before he published.

"The degree of the reaction has been surprising," Pankhurst said.

Thompson said the meeting was groundbreaking and positive. He did not regret publishing. "I thought about it very closely and I felt to illustrate the story it was the right thing."

- NZPA