Published September 13, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afghan president canceled his official visit to Norway amid concerns following Mideast riots over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad, officials said Thursday. Hamid Karzai also talked to President Barack Obama and expressed condolences over the killing of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya.
President Karzai's trip to Norway is to take place at a later date, said his spokesman, Aimal Faizi. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said the Afghan leader postponed the trip because he felt he needed to stay at home.
"The reason is that the president, in light of the serious events in some Arab countries in the past day, sees a need to be in Afghanistan," said the Norwegian statement. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he looks forward to receiving Karzai in Norway "at a later date."
Karzai was to have traveled to Oslo late Wednesday to sign an agreement of strategic partnership.
According to Karzai's office, the Afghan leader spoke by phone late Wednesday with Obama and conveyed his condolences for the violent killings of U.S. diplomats in Libya. He also discussed the "film and the insulting of holy Islamic values," but the statement provided no other details.
Karzai has condemned the anti-Islam film as "inhuman and insulting" and made by "extremists." On Wednesday, the government temporarily blocked access to YouTube to prevent people from watching the video until the website later took it down.
The Taliban have called on their fighters to avenge the film by increasing their attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan.
So far, there have been no protests in Afghanistan against the movie that depicts Muhammad and portrays him as a womanizer and a madman.
An Afghan cleric mentioned it in a speech Thursday during a commemoration of the death of a revered Shiite imam. The cleric, Sayyed Eisa Hossaini Mazari, told about 200 worshippers in a mosque west of Kabul that a "dirty American made a movie and it was put on YouTube" to spread anti-Islamic propaganda.
Mazari named the countries where protests against the film had occurred, but did not directly call for demonstrations in Afghanistan.
He told The Associated Press there will be protests if there is no "U.S. action against the movie."
At the headquarters of the U.S.-led military coalition in Kabul, Australian Army Brig. Gen. Roger Noble said Thursday that NATO had warned the international forces about the film. The alliance has also sought to deflect the potential for violence in Afghanistan over the film.
"What we're trying to do is minimize the chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or inadvertently putting ourselves in a position which might inflame a protest or people who gather together in the next few days," said Noble, deputy to the deputy chief of staff for operations for the coalition.
He said the coalition respected the Afghan people and their culture and religion. "So we ask your understanding on that and remember that we are here, a long way from home, trying to help Afghanistan."
In February, U.S. soldiers at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan burned 315 copies of the Quran and other religious materials that had been taken from a prison library for disposal. Word of the burning, which the U.S. said was unintentional, triggered scores of anti-American protests across the country which left more than 30 Afghans and six U.S. soldiers dead.
The victims included two U.S. troops who were shot by an Afghan soldier and two U.S. military advisers who were gunned down at their desks at the Afghan Interior Ministry. Six U.S. Army soldiers received unspecified administrative punishment for the Quran burning incident, the Pentagon announced last month.
Associated Press Writers Deb Riechmann contributed from Kabul and Karl Ritter from Stockholm.