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DIPLOMACY

Clinton appeals to Muslim leaders to stand together to oppose extremism

Stand together to resist extremism or world peace will be threatened, says US Secretary of State

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 4:10am
 

In a round of intense diplomacy in the wake of violent anti-US protests, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met a series of Muslim leaders and urged people to work together against extremists.

"All of us need to stand together to resist these forces and to support the democratic transitions under way in North Africa and the Middle East," Clinton told a donors forum.

"Unity on this throughout the international community is crucial because extremists around the world are working hard to drive us apart."

She was addressing a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, founded by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, at which she praised the Libyan people in Benghazi for rising up last week against armed militias.

Residents drove out the militants blamed for a September 11 attack on the US mission in which ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, at the start of a wave of protests in which around 50 people have died.

"The people of the Arab world did not set out to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. There is no dignity in that," Clinton said, before she met the leaders of Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt.

"The people of Benghazi sent this message loudly and clearly on Friday when they forcefully rejected the extremists in their midst and reclaimed the honour and dignity of a courageous city."

Libya's authorities have launched a crackdown after the massive anti-militia protests in Benghazi when hundreds of people stormed the bases of militias, sparking clashes that left 11 dead and dozens wounded.

And on Monday, at their first face-to-face talks, new Libyan leader Mohammed Magarief vowed to Clinton that his country would not be a burden to the international community.

Clinton has launched an official review of the events in Benghazi, including whether security measures were properly implemented, amid allegations the State Department failed to adequately protect its diplomatic staff there.

Libya would shoulder the "grave responsibility, for this tragedy and also let us look at the necessity to expedite the investigation in the incident and to bring to justice the perpetrators", Magarief added.

The events in Benghazi did "not express in any way the conscience of the Libyan people, their aspirations, their hopes or their sentiments towards the American people", he said at the start of their talks in New York.

Clinton thanked Magarief for his government's efforts and vowed the US would stand by Libya as it forged a fledgling democracy.

US President Barack Obama and Clinton have denounced the film Innocence of Muslims which triggered the unrest, but have stressed repeatedly that there is no justification for violence.

Clinton also met Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and thanked him for Pakistan's handling of several days of violent anti-US protests which swept the country last week.

"One or two insane persons should not be allowed to endanger world peace in the garb of freedom of expression," Zardari said at the meeting, according to a Pakistani embassy statement.

A senior State Department official said afterwards ties between the two uneasy allies "are moving upwards, in a positive direction".

Clinton also met Afghan President Hamid Karzai for almost an hour and discussed moves to launch talks on a new bilateral security agreement as US and international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

She later faced Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohammed Mursi, reassuring him that the United States would forge ahead with plans to expand economic assistance despite the recent anti-American protests.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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