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US blames inaccurate reporting for Hazare misunderstanding

Washington: The US on Wednesday said it supports freedom of peaceful expression and non-violent protest everywhere in the world, but blamed ”inaccurate reporting” in India for creating an impression that Washington had issued a strong statement on anti-graft protests there.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland refuted reports that the US had given any statement in direct support of Anna Hazare’s movement, that had prompted a strong reaction by India.

In fact, Congress on Wednesday lashed out at Washington, with its spokesperson Rashid Alvi in New Delhi asking ‘what was the need for the US to give such a statement?’

“There was some extremely inaccurate reporting out of India yesterday or today that the United States had issued some sort of strong statement, which we did not issue. The only statement about India yesterday to my knowledge was the one that we made from the podium here,” State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.

Nuland was responding to questions about the statement by the Congress spokesman suggesting that the US was interfering in the internal affairs of the country.

“I think this goes to inaccurate reporting in India that we had issued some sort of statement on — with regard to this case that we did not issue. With regard to the case, however, you know where we are. We support freedom of expression and assembly. And we encourage all countries and all parties to do the same,” Nuland said.

Nuland said all democratic governments have a responsibility to allow peaceful protest and freedom of dissent, even as they work to maintain public safety, and India is a country that has a strong and long-established democratic tradition, to which people look up to.

“It has a long tradition of non-violent protest. And it’s widely admired for these things and open debate. And that’s the standard that we — we all have come to expect from India,” Nuland said.

“I hope you heard, in the statement made yesterday, the statement just made, with regard to India, the same underlying principles with regard to the strong, vibrant democracy of India as we hope for in the transitional countries that we’re working with, Egypt, Tunisia, et cetera. In all countries, the US supports peaceful freedom of expression, non-violent protest,” Nuland said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not spoken to her Indian counterpart in the last couple of days. “Obviously, our embassy has been enunciating these same principles,” she said.

“We support the principle of freedom of assembly, right of non-violent protest in democracies around the world and in countries around the world, the universal principle,” Nuland said when asked if her comments were general in nature or specific to the movement of Anna Hazare.

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