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Clinton reaffirms support for Libya, emerging democracies

Yuri Gripas / REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a keynote address on "U.S. Strategic Engagement with North Africa in an Era of Change" at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington on Friday.

A month after the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed the United States' support for the new governments emerging from the Arab Spring.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday, Clinton said the attack in Benghazi and the burning of the American School in Tunis have led some to question the promise and hope of the Arab Spring. She said she has always been clear-eyed about the challenges that were ahead.  

"Let me start by stating the obvious: Nobody should have ever thought this would be an easy road. I certainly didn't," Clinton said. 

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She went on to say that the United States "will not pull back our support for emerging democracies when the going gets rough. That would be a costly strategic mistake that would, I believe, undermine both our interests and our values."   

Clinton described what occurred on Sept. 11 in Benghazi as a “terrorist attack” and said she appointed a review board to examine the security procedures in Benghazi. The U.S. government is "sparing no effort" to track down the terrorists responsible for the attack, Clinton said.

The terrorists who attacked the mission do not represent the Libyan people, she added, citing the protests against the militias there.

"The United States will not retreat," Clinton said. "We will keep leading and we will stay engaged in the Maghreb and everywhere in the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake."

The United States is "stepping up" its counterterrorism efforts in northern Mali, Clinton said, where al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is trying to expand its reach. 

"For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries. Now, with the chaos and ethnic conflict there allowing these groups to carve out a larger safe haven, they are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions," she said.

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