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U.S. Warns Of More Demonstrations Over Film


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. We have been following anti-American demonstrations across the Muslim world on this Friday. The demonstrations are being fueled by a film made in California which ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad and is unleashing old and deep resentments of the United States.

Now, while protests have erupted in more than a dozen countries today in the Middle East and across other parts of Asia, these protests are not as large or as violent as some feared they might be on this day of Friday prayers.

The fury has been aimed at American embassies and consular offices, other symbols of the West. In Sudan's capital city, Khartoum, crowds rushed the British and German embassies, but were pushed back. Protestors set fire to a KFC restaurant in northern Libya, in North Africa, protesting the American film, as well as the pope's visit to Lebanon.

The demonstration started earlier this week, and on Tuesday, the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed, along with three American staff at the consulate in Benghazi. We're going to talk about this with NPR's Leila Fadel. She's monitoring all the situation from Cairo.

And Leila, let's start where you are. What's been happening in Cairo today?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Well, the protests started out quite peacefully, and the turned back into the clashes that we've seen over the past few days. The military built a wall to stop demonstrators from getting to the U.S. embassy, but they're trying to find other avenues. And so now we've started to see police tear-gassing the (unintelligible) demonstrators, mostly just really young men, teenagers and 20-somethings trying to get into the embassy.

INSKEEP: So some action there in Cairo not nearly as serious as earlier in the week, but there is a lot of protest in other parts of the world. I misspoke earlier when saying there was a KFC restaurant - oh, it is in Libya. It is in Libya. OK. There's a KFC...

FADEL: No, it's in Lebanon.

INSKEEP: It's in Lebanon. There we go. OK. So we have a KFC restaurant in Lebanon that was set on fire, at least in part because of the film, at least in part because of the pope's visit to Lebanon. There have been demonstrations in other places: Indonesia, Malaysia. What do you make of this?

FADEL: Well, as we expected, the demonstrations are starting to spread through the region. I think this is, in part, over a film that is seen to insult the prophet, but also a groundswell of anger, historical anger towards the United States and their foreign policy. And so I think that's important to note, too.

But also, there's a general dissatisfaction in a lot of these countries. We see these same young men - like the ones we're seeing here in Cairo - show up to all kinds of protests, protesting different things and often not knowing what their protesting, but just protesting because they might be angry about something else. So...

INSKEEP: How are governments responding to this?

FADEL: Well, we're hearing wide-scale condemnation of attacks on foreign embassy, urging people to protest, but protest peacefully. That's a common theme across the Muslim world. The Muslim Brotherhood here in Egypt, the president comes from that organization, started off in a week quite tepid about condemnations, but in the past three days, has really picked up that criticism, saying, you know, it was unjustifiable to attack U.S. embassies. Today, the president, Mohammed Morsi, said: This film is distracting - is made to distract from the real problems of the Middle East. He said it's - the real problems of the Middle East are Syria and Palestine.

INSKEEP: Mohammed Morsi says that today, but he was criticized for saying very little in the initial couple of days after the attack on the U.S. embassy on Egyptian soil.

FADEL: That's right. He didn't say anything until Thursday. Two days after the attack on the embassy, other members of his government did. The Brotherhood is really playing a balancing act here, where they want to placate public opinion, but also want to keep their good relationship with the United States. So they've really been walking a fine line.

What we're seeing in these last two days, what observers say is out of concern that they might hurt their relationship with the United States, them coming out in defense of the embassies, in defense of the United States. They cancelled calls for nationwide protests today.

INSKEEP: OK, Leila. Thanks very much.

FADEL: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Leila Fadel, in Cairo on this day when we're monitoring demonstrations across the Arab world and the wider Muslim world, one of the reasons for those demonstrations believed to be an anti-Islamic film. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.