WASHINGTON: U.S. President Barack Obama called the leaders of Egypt and Libya to discuss security cooperation following the violence in Cairo and Benghazi, the White House said Thursday.
Obama urged Egypt to uphold its commitments to protect US diplomats and called on Libya to work with US authorities to bring those behind the deadly attack on the US consulate, which killed the US ambassador, to justice.
The calls came after militants attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, killing the US ambassador and three other Americans, hours after a mob attacked the US embassy in Cairo, scaling its walls and tearing down an American flag.
"The President called Egyptian President (Mohamed) Morsi today to review the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt," the White House said, referring to a phone call late Wednesday.
"President Obama underscored the importance of Egypt following through on its commitment to cooperate with the United States in securing US diplomatic facilities and personnel."
In an interview with Telemundo earlier Wednesday, Obama said the United States does not currently view Egypt as an ally or an enemy, but that if Cairo does not adequately protect the embassy it would be "a real big problem."
Both attacks were initially believed to have been motivated by outrage over an amateur Internet film made in America that insulted Islam, but US officials later said the Benghazi attack might have been a planned, pre-meditated assault.
Obama told Morsi he "rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, but underscored that there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities."
In their first conversation since Mohamed al-Megaryef became Libya's national assembly head last month, Obama thanked him for expressing condolences for the Americans killed in the consulate attack.
"He also expressed appreciation for the cooperation we have received from the Libyan government and people in responding to this outrageous attack, and said that the Libyan government must continue to work with us to assure the security of our personnel," the White House said in a separate statement.
"The President made it clear that we must work together to do whatever is necessary to identify the perpetrators of this attack and bring them to justice," it said.
The United States had earlier dispatched navy destroyers and Marines to Libya in the aftermath of the rocket attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American diplomatic staff.
Stevens had served as envoy to the Libyan rebels from the early weeks of the 2011 revolt that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi and had expressed hope the Arab Spring revolts would lead to democratic change.
Obama "reaffirmed our support for Libya's democratic transition, a cause Ambassador Stevens believed in deeply and did so much to advance," the White House said.