ISLAMABAD, Feb 17 (AFP): Former US president Bill Clinton said 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 Friday for a day-long trip, held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and is due to meet President Pervez Musharraf.
He signed an agreement under which the Clinton Foundation will help Pakistan with HIV/AIDS treatment, care and prevention.
Clinton was also due to visit a relief camp in Islamabad for victims of the October 8 earthquake, becoming the second former US president to do so after George Bush senior met survivors of the disaster here in January.
The 7.6-magnitude quake killed nearly 74,000 people, injured as many and made an estimated 3.5 million people homeless.