WASHINGTON: The Obama administration sought today to shore up already tense US ties with Pakistan amid massive, violent anti-American protests in several Pakistani cities over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.
With protests still smouldering in some areas of Pakistan on a holiday specially created for peaceful demonstrations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on ‘responsible leaders’ everywhere to explicitly condemn violence sparked by the video. But Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, standing beside Clinton at the State Department, ignored the invitation.
Instead, Khar focused her remarks entirely on the film, which Muslims believe is blasphemous. She thanked President Barack Obama and Clinton for speaking out against the video and making clear it did not have the support of the US government. But she avoided direct criticism of the violence.
“The condemnation of this blasphemous video, which has certainly stoked the sensitivities of the Muslims, goes a long way,” Khar said. “Your condemnation has given a strong message that the United States government not only condemns it, but has absolutely no support for such blasphemous videos or content anywhere.”
“I think that is a strong message, and that message should go a long way to ending the violence on many streets on the world,” she said, finishing her remarks on the subject and turning then to the broader state of US-Pakistan relations.
Clinton, who spoke before Khar, repeated her denunciation of the film but made it clear she was looking for condemnation of the violence which has wracked Pakistan for the past two days but not yet resulted in any damage or attacks on US diplomatic missions there, as has happened in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.
“We found the video... offensive, disgusting and reprehensible, but that does not provide justification for violence, and therefore it is important for responsible leaders, indeed responsible people everywhere, to stand and speak out against violence and particularly against those who would exploit this difficult moment to advance their own extremist ideologies,” Clinton said.
The State Department had no immediate comment on Khar’s remarks. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland had told reporters before the meeting that she believed Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had spoken against violence last week and that Khar would be making ‘public statements’ to that effect with Clinton on Friday.
In Pakistan, where more than 20 people died yesterday in clashes with police in cities throughout the country, a Cabinet minister offered a $100,000 reward for the death of the filmmaker.
Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Balor told The Associated Press that he would pay the reward out of his own pocket. He urged the Taliban and al-Qaeda to perform the ‘sacred duty’ of helping locate and kill the filmmaker.