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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Obama Condemns Attack That Kills Ambassador to Libya


An attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya on Tuesday night has brought foreign policy to the forefront of the presidential race, puncturing the solemn unity seen on the campaign trail one day earlier as both candidates observed the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, President Obama called the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the death of J. Christopher Stevens, the ambassador, and three other Americans “outrageous.” The attack apparently began as a reaction by an angry mob to a YouTube video denouncing Islam's founding prophet.

“While the United States rejects efforts to d enigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants,” Mr. Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

The news of the ambassador's death emerged on Wednesday after violence spilled over the American Consulate in Benghazi and demonstrators stormed the American Embassy in Cairo. The responses issued by the rival presidential campaigns demonstrate the difficulty candidates face while dealing with the continued volatility of the Middle East, especially after Arab Spring toppled governments across the region.

Mr. Obama said that he has “directed my administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe.”

In his statement, Mr. Obama added a personal testimonial to Mr. Stevens.

“Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States,” he said. “Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya's transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice.”

On Tuesday night, as more information about protests in Cairo and the deaths in Libya was released, Mr. Romney's campaign called the Obama administration's response to them “disgraceful.”

“I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American Consulate worker in Benghazi,” Mr. Romney said in a statement. “It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Mr. Romney was making an apparent reference to a statement released by the American E mbassy in Cairo condemning the trailer for the video, made by an Israeli-American. The statement, which rejects “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” was released before the protests started in an effort to cool tensions.

Mr. Romney's statement, sent to reporters late Tuesday evening, was originally meant to be embargoed until midnight, but the campaign lifted the prohibition just before 10:30 p.m.
The Obama campaign responded by condemning Mr. Romney's timing.

“We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack,” said Ben LaBolt, a campaign spokesman, early Wednesday morning.

The campaigns' exchanges took place before it was known that Mr. Stevens was among the dead.

On Wednesday Mr. Romney continued to take aim at the Obama administration's handling of unfolding developments in the Mideast, accusing the administration of a “severe miscalculation” and calling its handling of the matter “akin to an apology.” He also defended his own actions after coming under fire from Democrats for politicizing the issue.