RABAT, February 26, 2012 (AFP)
RABAT, February 26, 2012 (AFP)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that deadly protests in Afghanistan over the burning of Korans by US soldiers “must stop”.
“We deeply regret the incident that has led to this protest, but we also believe that violence must stop and the hard work for building a more peaceful and secure Afghanistan must continue,” she told a news conference during a visit to the Moroccan capital Rabat.
On Sunday, a protester was killed and seven US soldiers were wounded in a grenade attack on their base in a sixth day of anti-American protests, police said, bringing the death toll to more than 30 since the Koran burning at the Bagram airbase north of Kabul.
In an interview with CNN, Clinton said criticism of President Barack Obama’s apology for the Koran burning was not helpful.
“I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would inflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan,” Clinton said of the complaints by Republican presidential candidates and some experts about Obama’s apology.
“It was the right thing to do to have our president on record as saying this was not intentional, we deeply regret it,” Clinton said.
Clinton also urged Syrian soldiers not to fire on civilians as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 72 civilians were killed there on Saturday alone.
“We are appealing to the members of the Syrian army to put their country first,” Clinton said, adding: “We continue to believe that those around Assad are quite concerned about the brutal attacks going on.”
She said: “I want to reiterate my message to those Syrians who still support Assad, especially members of the Syrian military and business community: the longer you support the regime campaign of violence against your brothers and sisters, the more it will stain your honour.”
Those who renounce violence will become “heroes”, she said.
Eleven months of repression by the security forces of President Bashar al-Assad have left more than 7,600 people dead, rights groups say.
Clinton told CNN that diplomatic efforts were under way to erode Assad’s support.
“We have a lot of contacts, as do other countries … and our message is the same to all of them: ‘You cannot continue to support this illegitimate regime because it is going to fall,'” she said.
Clinton held talks Sunday with her Moroccan counterpart Saad Eddine Othmani on the third and final leg of a Maghreb tour aimed at nurturing democracy in the region.
The talks are the first between Clinton and a member of the government of Abdelilah Benkirane, a moderate Islamist who took office in January.
Clinton’s north African tour began in Tunis on Friday when she took part in a “Friends of Syria” international gathering.
In Algiers on Saturday Clinton met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, urging Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco to maintain the momentum of the democratization brought about by the Arab Spring by deepening reforms.
“I come from Tunisia, tomorrow I will be in Morocco. My message is the same: the people of the Maghreb are as talented, creative and hard-working as people anywhere in the world,” she said in Algiers.
“They need and deserve to make decisions on behalf of themselves because that is good for the dignity and rights of every individual and it’s good for every society.”
The Maghreb region comprises Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.