NEW YORK — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says new democracies in North Africa and the Middle East are threatened by extremists exploiting old divisions. Clinton is meeting with foreign leaders before the U.N. General Assembly.
Clinton said the international community must stand up against extremists who she said are exploiting popular frustrations in the Middle East and North Africa.
"Unity on this throughout the international community is crucial because extremists around the world are working hard to drive us apart. All of us need to stand together to resist these forces and to support democratic transitions underway in North Africa and the Middle East," she said.
Clinton said the Obama administration is trying to help societies leave behind old animosities, and look ahead to new opportunities, by backing reformers who build accountable institutions and combat the corruption that stifles innovation, initiative, and hope.
"Countries that are focused more on fostering growth than fomenting grievance are racing ahead. Building schools instead of burning them. Investing in their people’s creativity, not inciting their rage." she said. "Opening their economies and societies to have more connections with the wider world, not shutting off the Internet or attacking embassies."
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi earlier this month following protests against an Internet video mocking the Prophet Muhammad that was produced by an anti-Muslim group in California.
Civilians in Benghazi demonstrated against that violence Friday, showing what Clinton called their forceful rejection of extremists in their midst, reclaiming the honor and dignity of a courageous city.
"The democracy movements that have sprung up worldwide create exciting possibilities for countries that have been ruled for years by dictators. But they also pose, as we have dramatically seen, great challenges as people grapple with how to turn their democratic ideals into functioning governments and prosperous economies," she said.
Clinton spoke at a development forum organized by her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, in conjunction with this week's meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.