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Printing Prophet cartoons was a mistake: Clinton

Former US president Bill Clinton said that violent protests by Muslims have wasted a chance to build bridges with the West.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 20:57 IST

Former US president Bill Clinton said on Friday that printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was a mistake but that violent protests by Muslims have wasted a chance to build bridges with the West.

Clinton was speaking in Pakistan -- the scene of some of the worst rallies against the drawings -- where he was visiting survivors of last year's South Asian earthquake and launching an HIV/AIDS project.

"I strongly disagree with the creation and publication of cartoons that are considered blasphemous by the Muslims around the world. I thought it was a mistake," he told reporters.

"I had no objections to Muslims who were demonstrating in a peaceful way their convictions.

"I thought it (the cartoons issue) was also a great opportunity which I fear has been squandered to build bridges," he said, referring to violence across the Muslim world which has claimed 18 lives, including five in Pakistan.

Clinton, who arrived in Pakistan early on Friday for a day-long trip, held talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

He signed an agreement under which the Clinton Foundation will help Pakistan with HIV/AIDS treatment, care and prevention.

Musharraf thanked Clinton for the HIV/AIDS programme and help extended after the October earthquake, while Clinton praised Musharraf's efforts to promote peace and stability in South Asia, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The two leaders exchanged views on a wide range of subjects. The President (Musharraf) underscored the importance that Pakistan attaches to a broad-based, long-term sustainable relationship with the United States," the statement said.

The 7.6-magnitude quake killed nearly 74,000 people, injured as many and made an estimated 3.5 million people homeless.

Clinton later left by a special plane from Chaklala airbase near Islamabad, officials said.

First Published: Feb 17, 2006 20:57 IST