Protests against a U.S.-produced film denigrating the Prophet Muhammad spread to Yemen Thursday, as politicians at home continued to exchange jabs over official reactions to the killing of four American embassy staffers, including the ambassador, in Libya on Tuesday.
"Let me state very clearly - and I hope it is obvious - that the United States Government had absolutely nothing to do with this video," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the top of a scheduled meeting with the Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani on Thursday.
"We absolutely reject its content and message," Clinton added, saying, "To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."
The remarks represented the administration's reaction to calls for a U.S. government official to come out against the offensive video "Innocence of Muslims," which depicts the Prophet as a fraud, child molester and womanizer.
However, the secretary also reiterated remarks she and President Barack Obama made yesterday that "no matter how distasteful" another's views may be, nothing justifies "attacks on innocents."
Earlier in the day, reports showed anti-U.S. protests, which began Tuesday in Cairo before spreading to Libya, had reached Yemen and Iran. Hundreds of protesters outside of the U.S. embassy in Sana'a set vehicles aflame.
Yemeni embassy officials were moved to an undisclosed location earlier in the day. Diplomatic security has increased substantially this week after the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and three other embassy staff members, were killed in similar rioting Tuesday night.
Lawmakers in the U.S. are now looking into the possibility that al-Qaeda linked groups took advantage of the rioting outside of the embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday to launch the attack on the embassy that resulted in the deaths.
The "military-style attack" was too planned to be a coincidence, said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Roger's counterpart in the Senate, echoed his concern, saying al-Qaeda could have been involved because "the weapons were somewhat sophisticated, and they blew a hole in the building and started a big fire."
"That's how the ambassador died, in a fire," she added.
The FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies are working overtime to apprehend the perpetrators of the attack, who used rocket-propelled grenade launchers to attack the compound.
"We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done," President Barack Obama told reporters yesterday.
Speaking at a campaign event in Colorado today, the president reiterated this pledge, adding he has ordered his administration to do everything they can to protect U.S. citizens abroad.
However, Republicans capitalized on the turmoil abroad, blaming Obama's foreign policy stances for the outbreaks of violence and accusing him and other administration members of sympathizing with embassy attackers.
"It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks," Mitt Romney said in a Tuesday statement issued after the U.S. embassy in Cairo tweeted its condemnation of "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims."
After the White House did not take ownership of the Cairo statement, saying it was not ok'd by senior staff, Romney doubled-down on his critique, saying the "mixed messages" sent by the administration were "akin to an apology" to the attackers.
On Thursday, Obama answered, "In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn't come from me, it didn't come from Secretary Clinton. It came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger."
"And my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they're in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office," he added.
But the attacks on Obama's foreign policy continued Thursday, as the Romney campaign issued a Wall Street Journal op-ed penned by Dick Cheney's daughter Liz.
"The message sent to radicals throughout the region: If you assault an American embassy but don't kill anyone, the U.S. president won't complain," the op-ed read.
"Though the administration's performance in the crisis was appalling, it wasn't surprising—it is the logical outcome of three-and-a-half years of Obama foreign policy," it added.
Romney running mate Paul Ryan also chimed in Tuesday, telling supporters in De Pere, Wisconsin, "If you show weakness...then foreign policy adventurism among our adversaries will increase. We do not want a world climate where our adversaries are so tempted to test us."
Similar protests outside of U.S. embassies in Israel, Gaza, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq and Indian-controlled Kashmir have also been reported.
In Iran, where the U.S. does not have an embassy but is represented by Switzerland, protesters shouted "death to Israel" and "death to America."
In response to the violence, the U.S. has increased security at all embassies, sent Marines to Tripoli and dispatched two warships - the USS Laboon and USS McFaul - to the Libyan coast.
by RTT Staff Writer
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