Libya has made around 50 arrests over the killing of the US ambassador in Benghazi last week, a leading official said on Sunday. In Lebanon, Hezbollah called for protests over the anti-Islam film that has sparked fury in the Muslim world.
Libya's parliament chief announced on Sunday the arrests of some 50 people over the killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens in an attack he said was planned, although Washington said it was spontaneous.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, meanwhile, said the American military has no major plans to bolster its forces in the Middle East despite a week of violent protests targeting diplomatic outposts, including at the US consulate in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi where Stevens died.
Hezbollah calls for protests over Islam film
Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah organisation, on Sunday called for protests across the country over a US-produced film mocking Islam that caused uproar across the Islamic world.
"The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
He spoke just hours after Pope Benedict XVI left Lebanon following a historic three-day visit in which he prayed that Middle East leaders would work towards peace and reconciliation.
"The whole world should know that the Prophet has followers who will not be silent in the face of humiliation," said Nasrallah.
"The number reached about 50," Mohammed al-Megaryef, president of the Libyan National Congress, said in an interview with CBS News.
Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Tuesday when suspected Islamic militants fired on the US consulate in Benghazi with rocket-propelled grenades and set it ablaze.
Megaryef said "a few" of those who joined in the attack were foreigners who had entered Libya "from different directions, some of them definitely from Mali and Algeria."
"The others are affiliates and maybe sympathisers," he added.
Megaryef said the government has learned the attack was not the result of spontaneous anger over a US-made anti-Islam movie which has triggered sometimes deadly protests across the Arab and Muslim world.
"It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago. And they were planning this criminal act since their arrival," he told CBS.
But Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, offered a very different account, saying the assault began with a "spontaneous" protest over the video.
"Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo," Rice said.
"We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the consulate to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo," she told ABC's "This Week" programme.
"And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons. And it then evolved from there."
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has said in a statement the attack was revenge for the killing of the terror network's deputy leader Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi in a drone strike in June, and called for more attacks on US targets.
US officials have already deployed counter-terrorism Marine units to Libya and Yemen and stationed two destroyers off the North African coast.
Panetta told reporters before arriving in Tokyo that with a substantial force already deployed in the region and now boosted by extra Marine units, the military has the ability to respond as necessary to protect American diplomats.
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"We do have a major presence in the region," he said.
"Having said that we've enhanced that with FAST (Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team) teams and others so that if they are requested, they can respond more quickly."
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti on Saturday flatly rejected a US request to send special forces to protect the Khartoum embassy, the official SUNA news agency said, quoting his office.
Hours later, US officials announced Washington would evacuate all non-essential staff and family members from Sudan and Tunisia, and warned US citizens against travel to the two countries.
The US embassy in Yemen, meanwhile, suspended all consular services for two weeks, the mission said on its website, after four people were killed in violent anti-American protests in Sanaa.
FRANCE 24 with wires
Date created : 2012-09-16