Clinton warns U.S. embassies over planned Quran burning

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 8, 2010 

WASHINGTON — With concerns growing about hostile or even violent international reaction to a Florida pastor's plans to burn the Quran on Saturday, the Obama administration is stepping up its efforts to mitigate the damage.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a cable to all U.S. diplomatic posts overseas late Wednesday, instructing ambassadors — particularly in Muslim countries — to underscore that the planned action doesn't reflect Americans' view of Islam.

The intent is to ensure that the burning of Islam's holy book, if it takes place, "will be seen as the actions of a small fringe group," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Terry Jones, the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, a small church in Gainesville, Fla., has said he plans to burn the Quran on Saturday, the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The action already has sparked small protests in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Clinton's worldwide cable underscores worries that it could provoke attacks on U.S. troops and American citizens and facilities abroad, as well as hamper President Barack Obama's attempts to improve relations with the Muslim world.

At least one U.S. embassy has issued a "warden message," or travel advisory, to Americans in one country to be aware of heightened security risks, Crowley said. He didn't identify the country.

Clinton's message to U.S. embassies and consulates follows an aggressive public campaign by top Obama administration officials to try to persuade Jones to cancel the Quran-burning event and to distance the U.S. government and public from it.

In a wide-ranging speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton called the plan "distressful" and "distasteful," and lamented the fact that Jones has garnered such intense media attention.

"We are hoping that the pastor decides not to do this," she said.

Top U.S. military leaders, including the Afghanistan commander, Army Gen. David Petraeus, have denounced the plan, warning that it could put U.S. troops in danger.

A broad range of others have joined in, including conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and actor-humanitarian Angelina Jolie.

Clinton instructed U.S. diplomats to engage in conversations with foreign leaders and publics "between now and Saturday" to offer reassurances that the planned act does not represent the United States' values, Crowley said.

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