Obama said in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo that Egypt is a "new government that is trying to find its way." He warned that if the Egyptian government takes actions showing "they're not taking responsibility," then it would "be a real big problem."
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The president discussed the Middle East Wednesday in the aftermath of protests at the US Embassy in Cairo that led to crowds climbing the embassy walls and tearing down an American flag. It coincided with attacks on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi that led to the killing of the US ambassador and three other Americans.
Referring to the incident in Cairo, Obama said "I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident. Certainly in this situation, what we're going to expect is that (the Egyptian government is) responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected, and if they take actions that they’re not taking those responsibilities, as all countries do where we have embassies, I think that’s going to be a real big problem."
Addressing the ambush on the US Consulate in Libya, Obama called the deaths of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya "heartbreaking."
But when asked by Telemundo whether it was time to "reconsider foreign aid" to Egypt and Libya, the president said the US "doesn't have an option of withdrawing from the world ... we're the one indispensable nation."
"Libya ... is a government that is very friendly towards us," Obama continued. "The vast majority of Libyans welcomed the United States' involvement. They understand that it's because of us that they got rid of a dictator who had crushed their spirits for 40 years."
Responding to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s statements that Obama’s initial response was disgraceful, Obama said: "As president, my obligation is to focus on security for our people, making sure that we gather all the facts, making sure that we're advancing American interests. And not having ideological arguments on a day when we are mourning the loss of outstanding folks who have served our country very well."
The White House said that Obama called the presidents of Libya and Egypt and urged them to continue working with the United States to ensure the safety of diplomatic personnel.
Obama thanked Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf for his condolences over the deaths of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other State Department officers during an assault on the US consulate in Benghazi Tuesday. The White House says the two leaders agreed to work together to bring the attackers to justice.
During a second call Tuesday, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi promised that Egypt "would honor its obligation to ensure the safety of American personnel," the White House said.
Obama told Morsi that while "he rejects efforts to denigrate Islam ... there is never any justification for violence against innocents."
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