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September 21, 2012 12:42 am
The US government has bought television advertising slots in Pakistan denouncing the recent controversial anti-Islam video amid huge new demonstrations near the US embassy in Islamabad.
The advert includes statements by President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, criticising the film trailer that has been blamed for an explosion of anti-American violence in Muslim countries over the last 10 days.
The publicity offensive in Pakistan comes as the White House is facing fierce questioning over the circumstances around the attack on the consulate in Benghazi that led to the death of Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya. The White House on Thursday described the incident as a “terrorist attack”.
The decision to pay for the advert comes after large demonstrations on Thursday in Pakistan, apparently in connection with the trailer for the film The Innocence of Muslims, which mocks Prophet Mohammed.
The state department said that “tens of thousands” of people were involved in the protest in Islamabad, but that Pakistan’s security forces kept them back from the diplomatic enclave where the embassy is located.
The advert includes an image of the presidential seal, to show that it is authentic, and a label saying it was paid for. With subtitles in Urdu, it shows Mr Obama saying in a White House speech, “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation of respect – that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” Mrs Clinton then says: “Let me state very clearly that the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents.”
The state department said that the advert reached about 90m people in Pakistan. The last time the US paid for such public information slots in Pakistan was after the country’s 2005 earthquake.
US embassies and consulates around the world are bracing for a new round of protests on Friday, although in some Muslim countries they are normally closed. As far afield as Indonesia, the state department said that the embassy would be shut.
While the Obama administration has yet to fully explain the circumstances surrounding the attack last week on the consulate in Benghazi, the White House said on Thursday that “it is self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack”.
US officials were still trying to examine whether any of the assailants were linked to al-Qaeda affiliates that could be operating in Libya. “We have no information at this point to suggest that this is a significantly pre-planned attack,” he said.
In an indication of the political sensitivity of the subject, Mrs Clinton and senior intelligence officials gave a closed-door briefing on Thursday evening on the attack to all members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
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