The United States is working to shore up security at diplomatic sites abroad, as protests responding to an incendiary film, entitled "Innocence of Muslims," spread across the Middle East, an Obama spokesperson said on Friday.
"We are responding to and coping with and dealing with, with countries around the globe, the unrest brought about by this offensive video and taking action to ensure security is enhanced and augmented at diplomatic facilities around the globe," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Carney's remarks represented an attempt to quell a burgeoning crisis abroad, as riots over a film insulting the prophet Muhammad continue to convulse the Muslim world. Members of Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign are attempting to link the chaos to President Barack Obama's foreign policy, which they say has projected weakness and undermined America's influence abroad.
"We've got Barack Obama with a risk-averse, lead-from-behind approach, and how's that worked?" Richard Williamson, a top Romney foreign policy adviser, told the Washington Post. "We not only have the events in Egypt and Libya and now in Yemen, but we have in Syria 20,000-plus people killed, many by means of various atrocities by a regime, and the Obama administration is missing in action."
Obama Campaign Condemns Romney Campaign's Remarks
The Obama campaign has condemned such remarks, with campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt saying that it is "astonishing that the Romney campaign continues to shamelessly politicize a sensitive international situation." But a number of Republican officials have backed Romney, faulting Obama in particular for a conciliatory statement that the U.S. embassy in Cairo issued shortly before protests escalated.
Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is expected to pile-on in a speech to religious conservatives, where the Wisconsin Republican is set to accuse the Obama administration of treating Israel with "indifference bordering on contempt."
Romney has regularly accused the Obama administration of apologizing for its actions abroad, and Carney threaded a rhetorical needle in saying the administration has condemned the Muhammad film but will not apologize for it.
"We have made clear that we find it offensive and reprehensible and disgusting," Carney said. "But we cannot and will not squelch freedom of expression in this country, it is a foundational freedom in this country."
President Obama has also faced criticism for saying the United States no longer considers Egypt an ally, saying in an interview with Telemundo that Egypt has "a new government that is trying to find its way." For decades, Egypt's peace treaty with Israel -- cemented by billions of dollars in American military aid, has been a cornerstone of Middle Eastern stability. Williamson called Obama's remarks "amateur hour."
But Egypt's handling of popular protests has been a flash-point, prompting Obama to call newly elected president Mohamed Morsi with a stern warning on Thursday night. Carney said that Morsi "emphasized that Egypt would honor its obligation to ensure the safety of American personnel."
Carney dismissed the idea that Obama was questioning Egypt's relationship with the United States, carefully avoiding the word "ally" in saying that "Egypt is a critical strategic partner of the United States."
"We have had a longstanding partnership with Egypt and support their transition to democracy," Carney said.
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