BY Scott Stearns – STATE DEPARTMENT — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton goes to Capitol Hill this week to defend continuing U.S. support for new democracies in North Africa and the Middle East at a time of anti-American protests. Many of those demonstrators appear to be protesting a U.S.-made film that mocks the Prophet Muhammad.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Congressional leaders want a full assessment of the anti-American protests and what the Obama administration is doing to protect diplomatic personnel and facilities abroad.
There have been demonstrations in about 20 countries since last week, when violence erupted at the U.S. embassy in Egypt, and the American ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Nuland says Clinton will tell lawmakers that the United States must stand with new leaders in North Africa and the Middle East.
“These people in all of these transitioning countries who have stood up for change and who have fought for change in their own countries – whether you are talking about Libya or Tunisia or Yemen or Egypt – we don’t want now to let a few mobs hijack their desire for a better future,” Nuland said.
She says the United States should deepen and broaden its support in the region, so people with grievances express them at the ballot box rather than through violence.
Democratic countries, Nuland says, make better allies.
“We are now standing with governments across this region that are freely elected, that have to be accountable to their people. And that is better for us than where we were before this Arab Spring. But we can’t abandon these people now, particularly because they are facing extremism in their midst. They are facing folks who want to roll back the clock inside their countries and between their countries,” Nuland said.
America’s role in North Africa and the Middle East has become an issue in U.S. presidential campaign, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney saying that Democratic President Barrack Obama has weakened America’s standing in the region.
Obama says the U.S. diplomats killed in Libya risked their lives “to help one of the world’s youngest democracies get on its feet.” He says no act of violence will shake America’s resolve.