The U.S. embassy in Pakistan is airing a public service advertisement on Pakistani television that features President Barack Obama denouncing an anti-Islam video that has sparked protests across the Muslim world.
The U.S. State Department said the embassy spent $70,000 to run the 30-second announcement, which features the president talking about America's history of religious tolerance. In the same ad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seen saying the U.S. government had nothing to do with the inflammatory video that insults the Prophet Muhammad.
The low-budget Internet video was produced by an anti-Muslim filmmaker in California. It first sparked protests last week in Cairo and the Libyan city of Benghazi, where U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other embassy personnel were killed. Since then, anti-U.S. protests have spread as far as Indonesia.
Elsewhere Thursday, police clashed with protesters in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as a crowd of more than 1,000 students tried to reach a walled-off area of the city that houses foreign embassies and government offices. A VOA correspondent in Lahore, Pakistan's second city, said university students also gathered there to denounce the United States. Similar protests erupted in Afghanistan and Iran.
Pakistani media say 15,000 people are expected to march on Islamabad's diplomatic enclave Friday and that the government has called on the national army to protect the area. The day has been designated “a day of love for the Prophet,” with police urging demonstrators to protest peacefully.
Meanwhile, the French news agency says police in Paris have banned two anti-U.S. protests planned for Saturday, including one in front of the city's Grand Mosque. France's interior minister has said he will ban all protests over the video.
The French weekly Charlie Hebdo featured several images of the Prophet Muhammad in its Wednesday issue, including several of him naked.
In response to the magazine's actions, the French government announced it is closing its embassies, consulates, cultural centers and schools in 20 countries Friday as a precautionary measure.