Archive for September 16, 2012
Canada is closing three of its Middle East embassies for the day today because of continued security concerns. A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the missions in Egypt, Libya and Sudan will not be open to ensure the safety of diplomatic staff. The Canadian mission in Tunis is normally closed on Sunday. The moves follow a wave of protests and violence over an anti-Muslim film that has swept across the Middle East and other Muslim countries in recent days. The Canadian embassy in Cairo also closed on Thursday because of the angry protests at the nearby American embassy. The normal Egyptian weekend is Friday-Saturday so the Cairo embassy has been closed since. The Harper government shuttered its embassy in Tehran and severed diplomatic ties with Iran earlier this month, in part because it said it was concerned about the safety of Canadian diplomats.
The United States ordered non-essential staff to leave its embassies in Tunisia and Sudan after both diplomatic posts were attacked and Khartoum rejected a U.S. request to send a platoon of Marines to bolster security at its mission there. “Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the U.S. State Department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. The U.S. embassies in Tunis and Khartoum were attacked on Friday by protesters infuriated by a widely disseminated anti-Islamic film, made in the United States, that insults the Prophet Mohammad and has provoked a violent reaction across the Muslim world. Four people were killed and 46 injured in the assault on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, according to a hospital official in the city. In Khartoum, around 5,000 people protesting against the film stormed the German embassy before breaking into the U.S. mission on Friday. They also attacked the British embassy and at least two people were killed in clashes with police, according to state media. A U.S. official told Reuters on Friday that Washington would send Marines to Sudan to improve security at the embassy, which is located outside Khartoum for security reasons. But Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti told the state news agency SUNA, “Sudan is able to protect the diplomatic missions in Khartoum and the state is committed to protecting its guests in the diplomatic corps.” Sudanese and U.S. officials said on Saturday that the Marines had already set off for Khartoum but had been called back pending further discussions with Sudan.
Under intense pressure from Washington, Egyptian security forces arrested hundreds of protesters around the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, as political leaders struggled to deal with the fallout caused by the week of unrest. Across the region, the anti-American demonstrations that convulsed cities in many parts of the Islamic world last week subsided at least temporarily, a fragile calm taking hold a day after violent and sometimes deadly demonstrations at U.S. and Western installations spread to almost 20 countries. In Cairo, where the protests against a crude video denigrating Islam began Tuesday, security forces expanded the fortifications around the U.S. Embassy. By midday Saturday, they had cleared the streets around the complex. Hisham Qandil, Egypt’s prime minister, said Saturday that he had visited the U.S. Embassy to express his support and told the BBC’s Arabic news channel that it was regrettable and wrong that so many blamed the U.S. government for a video to which it had no connection.