February 09, 2006, Washington (Stop Fundamentalism) – THE United States today accused Syria and Iran of using the international row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to incite anti-West sentiment and violence for their own purposes.
As Washington grappled with mounting anger among Muslims over publication of the caricatures in Western newspapers, President George W. Bush condemned the violence while admonishing the media to be more "thought
But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sharpened the political dimension of the controversy by charging Iran and Syria, two frequent targets of the Bush administration, with stoking sectarian feelings.
Emerging from talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Ms Rice said some Muslim countries were behaving responsibly but "there are governments that have also used this opportunity to incite violence".ful" of others.
"I don’t have any doubt that … Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes. And the world ought to call them on it," she said.
Ms Rice went further than previous US statements that accused Tehran and Damascus of not doing enough to rein in the violent protests over the satirical images of Mohammed first published in a Danish paper.
"Nothing justifies the violence that has broken out in which many innocent people have been injured," she said. "Nothing justifies the burning of diplomatic facilities or threats to diplomatic facilities around the world."
Mr. Bush, meeting at the White House with Jordan’s King Abdullah, said: "I call upon the governments around the word to stop the violence, to be respectful, to protect property, to protect the lives of innocent diplomats."
In his first public remarks on the global furore, Mr. Bush said he rejected violence as a way to express discontent with the press. But the US president had a stern message for the media as well.
"We believe in a free press, and also recognize that with freedom comes a responsibility, that with freedom comes the responsibility to be thoughtful about others," he told reporters in the Oval Office.
Those comments highlighted the difficult US position in balancing a respect for press freedom with the needs of public diplomacy to reach out to the Muslim world enraged by caricatures of Islam’s holiest figure.
US officials privately express frustration with the situation, which has seen violence erupt in Europe and across the Muslim world, with attacks on Western embassies and a worldwide death toll of 13 as of early today.
But the reprinting of the 12 offending caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a French satirical weekly today, along with a fresh batch of similar cartoons, was likely to deepen Muslim anger.