Ex-U.S. president, on visit to Pakistan criticized cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton criticized cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on Friday, but he said Muslims wasted an opportunity to build better ties with the West by holding violent protests against the drawings.

Clinton made the comments after arriving in the capital, Islamabad, for a brief visit, which will include meetings with Pakistan's president and prime minister.

The former U.S. leader also signed an agreement between his foundation and the Pakistani government involving an HIV-AIDS project.

He said he opposed the prophet cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September. The caricatures have been reprinted by other Western media, sparking violent protests across the Muslim world, including Pakistan.

Clinton, who only planned to stay in Pakistan for a few hours, also said he supported peaceful demonstrations and he lamented that many had turned violent.

"I thought it (the protests) was also a great opportunity which I fear has been squandered to build bridges," he told reporter.

"Because I can tell you most people in the United States deeply respect Islam ... and most people in Europe do," he added.

Clinton said he would not be surprised if the Danish newspaper publisher who originally printed the cartoons had not known they were blasphemous, reports the AP.

I.L.

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