World Bulletin / News Desk
The United States has paid Pakistani television stations to run advertisements featuring President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, hoping to calm public anger in a country hit by protests against an anti-Islam movie made in California, the State Department said on Thursday.
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad spent about $70,000 to run the announcement, which features clips of Obama and Clinton underscoring U.S. respect for religion and declaring the U.S. government had nothing to do with the movie, it said.
"In order to ensure we reached the largest number of Pakistanis, some 90 million as I understand it in this case with these spots, it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.
The U.S. announcement aired as Washington warned Americans to avoid non-essential travel to Pakistan, one of the mostly Muslim countries hit by a wave of anti-American demonstrations. In Libya, a deadly assault last week killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The protests, which were sparked by an Internet video that mocked the Prophet Mohammad and swept through Yemen, Egypt and other countries, also prompted the U.S. government to withdraw non-essential personnel in Tunisia and Sudan.
In Pakistan, protesters have demonstrated in more than a dozen cities.
Nuland said the decision to buy the television ads, identified as paid public service announcements, was not unusual in countries where this is "the norm for getting your message out."
"I think the sense was that this particular aspect of the president and the secretary's message needed to be heard by more Pakistanis than had heard it, and that this was an effective way to get that message across," she said.
She said it would take time to measure the effectiveness of the ads in Pakistan, where on Thursday huge crowds again gathered to protest against the video.