Violence sparked by anti-Islam video leveling off: Panetta


AP and Reuters

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT/DUBAI — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the turmoil raging across the Muslim world is likely to continue into the days ahead, but he says the violence expected by the U.S. appears to be leveling off.

He said the Pentagon has “deployed our forces to a number of areas in the region to be prepared to respond to any requests that we receive to be able to protect our personnel and our American property.”

He declined to provide more details on reports that the military may be moving additional military forces so they can respond to unrest in any of a number of regions of concern.

“I think our approach right now is to not do anything until we’ve been requested to do it by the State Department,” Panetta told reporters traveling with him to Asia. But he noted that, “I think that we have to continue to be very vigilant because I suspect that … these demonstrations are likely to continue over the next few days, if not longer.”

Protests by furious Muslims erupted in countries around the world in recent days, with some spawning violence and even deaths over an anti-Islam video shot in California that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. In places like Libya, Sudan and Tunisia, protesters stormed U.S. embassies, and an American fast food restaurant was burned in Lebanon.

In response, the Pentagon dispatched elite Marine rapid response teams to Libya and Yemen, but a team deployed to Khartoum on Friday was turned back when the Sudanese government objected.

Asked about Sudan’s decision, Panetta said host countries have the right to reject such military deployments.

“My understanding is that they felt that they could provide sufficient security to be able to protect our embassy and our personnel there,” said Panetta. “And you know, in many ways, as all of you know the primary responsibility for protecting embassies rests with the host country.”

The Navy also moved two warships to positions off the coast of Libya. The two destroyers are largely meant as a show of force, but they carry Tomahawk missiles and can also be available for evacuations or other missions. Story continues on page 2