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Hezbollah chief makes rare appearance, leads calls for protests over video

TODAY's Matt Lauer speaks with Al-Arabiya's Washington bureau chief Hisham Melhem on what has made conditions in the Middle East so ripe for violence, and whether there's a deeper anger that feeds the current outrage against the United States.

Updated at 4:00 p.m. ET: Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah made a rare public appearance in Beirut on Monday, calling for sustained protests against an anti-Islam film that already has provoked a week of demonstrations aimed at Western interests in Muslim countries worldwide.

"The world should know our anger will not be a passing outburst but the start of a serious movement that will continue on the level of the Muslim nation to defend the Prophet of God," Nasrallah told tens of thousands of marchers in Beirut's southern suburbs.


Meanwhile, the State Department urged U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to an "upsurge in violence" there. On Friday, anti-Western protesters torched a KFC in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

In northwest Pakistan, hundreds of protesters torched a press club and a government building, triggering clashes with police that left at least one person dead.

Despite the demonstration in Lebanon, Arab countries saw a third day of relative calm after multiple attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts, including one that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, forcing Washington to ramp up security in select countries. At least 10 protesters have died in the week of violence.

The crisis presents President Barack Obama with a foreign policy headache as elections approach.

The California-made movie that has provided the spark for the violence portrays Islam's Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester. Protesters have directed their anger at the U.S. government, insisting it should do something to stop it, though the film was privately produced.

American officials have criticized it for intentionally offending Muslims -- and in one case, acted to prevent it being shown at a Florida church.

German authorities are considering whether to ban the public screening of the film, titled "Innocence of Muslims" because it could endanger public security, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday. A fringe far-right political party says it plans to show the film in Berlin in November.

Germany followed the U.S. lead and withdrew some staff from its embassy in Sudan, which was stormed on Friday.

US analysts: Benghazi emerges as key recruiting ground for al-Qaida

Washington ordered non-essential staff and family members to leave its embassy on Saturday after the Khartoum government turned down a U.S. request to send Marines to bolster security.

Non-essential U.S. personnel have also been withdrawn from Tunisia, and Washington urged U.S. citizens to leave the capital Tunis after the embassy there was targeted on Friday.

NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel spoke with former Arab League chief and former Egyptian foreign minister, Amr Moussa, to ask why there has been so much anti-American violence despite America's support of Arab Spring.

Clashes
In Beirut, Hezbollah's Nasrallah called on governments across the world to censor websites carrying clips from the film and urged Muslims to boycott those websites that carried it.

"The world needs to understand our links to God's prophet. ... It did not understand the level of the insult that God's prophet was subjected to through some of the clips of this insulting film," he said, to roars of applause and cheers from the crowd.

Nasrallah has lived in hiding to avoid assassination since Hezbollah fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006.

The crowd at the demonstration was made up of men and women of all ages walking in separate groups, but united in their anger against the anti-Islam film.

“It’s the best we can do,” said Osama, a protester who gave only his first name, to explain why people had come out into the street Monday. “Every Muslim should do the same. Because if we don’t have respect for each other who’s going to respect us? We are against Israel and America, and whatever they do against Muslims.”

Mohammed, another protester who also only gave his first name, explained the target of his anger. “I am against the United States – the government, not the people. They insulted the prophet, and all Muslims around the world want to grab America by their throat.” 

"It's America’s fault if people attacked their embassies," said Haj Mustafa, another demonstrator.  

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut warned American citizens on Monday about the "continued threat of violent demonstrations" and "other violent actions against U.S. interests in Lebanon."

In Pakistan, several hundred demonstrators in the northwest clashed with police Monday after setting fire to a press club and a government building, said police official Mukhtar Ahmed.

The protesters apparently attacked the press club in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province's Upper Dir district because they were angry their rally was not getting more coverage, he said.

One protester died when police and demonstrators exchanged fire, and several others were wounded, police official Akhtar Hayat said.

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Elsewhere in Pakistan, hundreds of protesters clashed with police for a second day in the southern city of Karachi as they tried to reach the U.S. Consulate. Police lobbed tear gas and fired in the air to disperse the protesters, who were from the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. Police arrested 40 students, but no injuries have been reported, said senior police officer Asif Ejaz Shaikh.

Unrest continued across the Islamic world as demonstrators in Pakistan broke through a barrier near the U.S. consulate in Karachi and protesters in Turkey burned a U.S. flag. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

One protester was killed and over a dozen were wounded in similar clashes in Karachi on Sunday.

Pakistanis have also held many peaceful protests against the film, including one in the southwest town of Chaman on Monday attended by around 3,000 students and teachers.

In neighboring Afghanistan, hundreds of people burned cars and threw rocks at a U.S. military base in the capital, Kabul. Many in the crowd shouted "Death to America!" and "Death to those people who have made a film and insulted our prophet."

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Embassies in Kabul's heavily guarded central zone were placed on lockdown, including the U.S. and British missions, after violence flared near fortified housing compounds for foreign workers in the city's volatile eastern suburbs.

Youssef Boudlal / Reuters

Protests ignited by a controversial film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad spread throughout Muslim world.

Protests broke out in several part of Kabul. On the main thoroughfare through the city, demonstrators burned tires, shipping containers and at least one police vehicle before they were dispersed.

Elsewhere in the city, police shot in the air to hold back a crowd of about 800 protesters and prevent them from pushing toward government buildings downtown, said Azizullah, a police officer at the site who, like many Afghans, only goes by one name.

The rallies will continue "until the people who made the film go to trial," said one protester, Wahidullah Hotak, among several dozen people demonstrating in front of a Kabul mosque, demanding President Barack Obama bring those who have insulted the prophet to justice.

A number of Afghan religious leaders urged calm.

"Our responsibility is to show a peaceful reaction, to hold peaceful protests. Do not harm people, their property or public property," said Karimullah Saqib, a cleric in Kabul.

A Meet the Press roundtable discusses recent upheaval in the Middle East and how the United States intends to respond.

In Jakarta, the U.S. Embassy issued an emergency message urging American citizens about planned protests in the Indonesian capital and the city of Medan.

Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on the West to block the film Monday to prove they are not "accomplices" in a "big crime," according to Iranian state TV.

The Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, condemned to death the Indian-born British novelist Salman Rushdie in 1989 for his novel The Satanic Verses,'' saying its depiction of the Prophet Muhammad was blasphemous.

As Iran increases the price on 'Satanic Verses' author Salman Rushdie's head, he speaks out on life in hiding more than 23 years ago when Muslim protesters raged against him in the Middle East and tells TODAY's Matt Lauer that it was a time of incredible stress.

In Tunisia, more than 1,000 security forces surrounded a mosque in the capital on Monday where a radical Islamic leader wanted by police over clashes at the U.S. Embassy last week was meeting hundreds of followers, a Reuters witness said.

The wave of international violence began last Tuesday when mainly Islamist protesters climbed the U.S. Embassy walls in the Egyptian capital of Cairo and tore down the American flag from a pole in the courtyard.

Ambassador Stevens was killed Tuesday as violent protesters stormed the consulate in Benghazi.

NBC News' Claudio Lavanga contributed to this report from Beirut, Lebanon. NBC News staff, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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