Obama vows to 'stand fast' as anti-US violence spreads

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WASHINGTON, Sept 14, 2012 (AFP) - President Barack Obama vowed Friday to “stand fast” against spreading anti-US violence raging in the Arab world, as he mourned four Americans slain in Libya after their remains were flown home.

 

In a heart-rending homecoming, four transfer caskets draped in American  flags were slowly borne from the belly of a giant C-17 transport plane by  slow-walking Marines in dress uniforms, and set down in a hangar.
 
US ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other Americans died Tuesday when  a mob furious over an anti-Muslim Internet video made on US soil torched the  American consulate in Benghazi, part of a region-wide eruption of violence.
 
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his  friends,” Obama said, quoting the Bible as he honored four “American patriots”  for embodying national qualities of courage, hope and idealism.
 
“Their sacrifice will never be forgotten, we will bring to justice those  who took them from us. We will stand fast against the violence on our  diplomatic missions,” Obama said at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.
 
As he spoke, a furious wave of anti-American violence ripped across the  Middle East and North Africa, with a crowd invading the US embassy compound in  Tunis, and guards at the US embassy in Khartoum firing warning shots at  protesters.
 
Fresh violence erupted in Yemen and Cairo and demonstrations took place in  Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel and the Gaza Strip,  Morocco, Syria, Kuwait, Nigeria and Kenya.
 
Six people were killed and dozens injured in Friday’s violence alone.
 
Obama said that the “awful” loss and terrible images may cause some to  question the dangerous work of US diplomats abroad, but argued that America  must not abandon its global mission to spread dignity and freedom.
 
“Even as voices of suspicion and mistrust seek to divide countries and  cultures from one another, the United States of America will never retreat from  the world,” he vowed.
 
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told grieving relatives of Stevens,  information officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen  Doherty that the killings dishonored the spirit of the Arab Spring.
 
“The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of  a dictator for the tyranny of a mob,” she said.
 
US military and intelligence agencies have already launched a manhunt in  Libya for the militants who staged the assault on the consulate in Benghazi.
 
“There’s an intense focus” on finding the attackers, a US defense official  told AFP on condition of anonymity.
 
The State Department was meanwhile working with Middle Eastern and North  African nations to boost security at its missions.
 
In Yemen and Libya, teams of US Marines flew in to boost security.
 
The violence erupted in response to excerpts of the “Innocence of Muslims”  video mocking Islam that went viral on YouTube.
 
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told AFP the White House “reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to  review whether it violates their terms of use.”
 
On Wednesday, the Google-owned site said the film was within the firm’s  guidelines and would not be taken down, though access to it was temporarily  restricted in Egypt and Libya.
 
Officials said Obama was being repeatedly briefed on the worsening security  situation around US posts in the Middle East and elsewhere, and was mounting a  strong diplomatic push with key regional leaders to restore calm.
 
He has spoken personally to the leaders of Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and the  White House said he sent a personal message to Turkish Prime Minister Recep  Tayyip Erdogan asking him to speak out against the violence.
 
US Vice President Joe Biden called his Sudanese counterpart Ali Osman Taha  to express concern over the security of the US and other Western embassies in  Khartoum.
 
“Vice President Biden reaffirmed the responsibility of the government of  Sudan to protect diplomatic facilities and stressed the need for the government  of Sudan to ensure the protection of diplomats in Khartoum,” the White House  said.
 
The White House also denied a report in Britain’s Independent newspaper  that it had advance warning of the attack in Benghazi, which officials in Libya  are now blaming on Al-Qaeda. -- AFP

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