U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned Tuesday's attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, but emphasized that the U.S. would continue cooperating with the Libyan government.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack," Obama said in a televised statement from the White House Rose Garden.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staffers were killed Tuesday night in a rocket attack that targeted the envoy's car in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
Obama praised U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was one of four people killed in the attack, for the role he played in Libya, before and after the revolution. "He was a role model to all who worked with him," Obama said.
All public buildings in the United States were ordered by a presidential proclamation on Wednesday to fly the American flag at half-staff until the end of the weekend.
"This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya, Obama said, noting that Libyans had taken the ambassador's body to the hospital, while Libyan security forces had fought against the attackers alongside Americans.
"We're working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I've also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people," he said.
Referring to the YouTube video that served as the pretext for the attack, Obama said the U.S. rejects "all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others… But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. "
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released a statement extending his condolences to the families of the victims and criticizing the Obama administration for sending what it called "mixed signals."
“I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions," Romney said. He was referring to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemning the YouTube video, which also provoked angry demonstrations in Egypt.
“The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed," he said, adding that, "In the face of this violence, America cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead."
“We must strive to ensure that the Arab Spring does not become an Arab Winter," the statement concluded.
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