Clinton urges tolerance amid anti-US protests

Speaking at her husband's Clinton Global Initiative before meeting the presidents of Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and Pakistan on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly, Clinton said the United States would always champion the rights to peaceful protest and free expression even if it deplored the content of the speech.

Her comments came as demonstrators angry over the vulgar depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in a video continue to protest around the Muslim world and a Pakistani government minister put a $100 000 bounty on the head of the filmmaker.

"Dignity does not come from avenging insults, especially with violence that can never be justified," Clinton said. "It comes from taking responsibility and advancing our common humanity."

Fomenting grievance, she said, produces violent protests that accomplish nothing in the way of improving living standards, creating jobs or developing societies.

"Building schools instead of burning them, investing in their people's creativity, not inciting their rage, opening their economies and societies to have more connections with the wider world, not shutting off the internet or attacking embassies" is the way to a better life, she said.

"Extremists around the world are working hard to drive us apart," Clinton warned. "All of us need to stand together to resist these forces and to support democratic transitions under way in North Africa and the Middle East."

The Obama administration has been grasping for ways to try to tamp down the fury over the video, especially in Pakistan, where some of the most intense and sustained protests have been held. The US embassy in Islamabad released public-service advertisements showing US President Barack Obama and Clinton denouncing the film.

'Difficult time'
Compounding the difficulty, Pakistan's railways minister offered $100 000 to anyone who kills the maker of the film. The Pakistani government disavowed the bounty on Monday, just hours before Clinton met President Asif Ali Zardari.

"We very much appreciate the strong response of your government," Clinton told Zardari.

Zardari replied: "It's been a difficult time for all of us."

Senior US officials present at the Clinton-Zardari meeting said all members of the Pakistani delegation had condemned the bounty. One, who is a member of the railway minister's political party, told the Americans that the party would soon be considering his future role.

One of the US officials said Clinton's team was "comfortable with that response." The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the meeting.

Later, Clinton met with President Mohammed el-Megaref of Libya, where the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed in a September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. She thanked him for the support offered by his government in the aftermath of the attack and praised the Libyan people for overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi last year.

"Courage has been the defining characteristic of the Libyan people over these last two years," she said. "Courage to rise up and overthrow a dictator, courage to choose the hard path of democracy, courage to stand against violence and division in the country and the world."

El-Megaref called the consulate attack "a very painful, huge tragedy, not only for the American people and the families of the victims, but also for the Libyan people." He noted that thousands of Libyans had marched in the streets to protest the attack and said those demonstrations "embodied the conscience of the Libyan people."

"What happened on [the] 11th of September toward these US citizens does not express in any way the conscience of the Libyan people, their aspirations, their hopes or their sentiments toward the American people," he said.

Clinton also met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Egypt's new Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. A US official said Clinton and Morsi spoke about the importance of ensuring the security of US diplomatic offices. Morsi stressed that embassy security was Egypt's duty, according to the official, who wasn't authorised to speak publicly about the private meeting and requested anonymity. It was the highest-level US-Egypt meeting since protesters stormed the US Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11 to protest the anti-Muslim film.

Obama is speaking to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, but on Monday left the bilateral meetings with heads of state to Clinton while he taped an appearance on the daytime talk show "The View." – Sapa-AP

Matthew Lee
Matthew Lee works from NYC. Matthew Russell Lee covers the SDNY & UN daily, IMF, banks behaving badly, now also extra material at https://t.co/jJnrFAKbNz Matthew Lee has over 5592 followers on Twitter.
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