THE White House has questioned the judgment of a French weekly that published cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed, but said the decision was no justification for violence.
"We have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this," White House spokesman Jay Carney said, while adding "it is not in any way justification for violence."
"We don't question the right of something like this to be published, we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it," Carney said.
The decision by the French weekly Charlie Hebdo to print obscene cartoons depicting the prophet, came as fresh protests erupted in the Muslim world over an anti-Islam film made by extremist Coptic Christians in the United States.
Security was reinforced at French missions and other institutions in countries feared most at risk of a hostile reaction to the French cartoons.
French Embassies, consulates, cultural centres and international French schools in around 20 countries will be closed on Friday in case they are targeted in demonstrations following weekly Muslim prayers.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that as yet no decisions had been made regarding US embassies on Friday, as the situation was being evaluated "on a day-to-day basis."
"Obviously we're in very close touch with our French allies as they evaluate their security posture," she said.
US embassies in Tunis, Tripoli, and Sanaa were closed on Wednesday, she confirmed, and while consulates in the Pakistani cities of Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi were closed the embassy in Islamabad was open.
"We're talking to the French. I'm obviously not going to get into our security assessment other than to say this is one of the things we're factoring into our look at security going forward."
The cartoons drama erupted a week after violent reactions to the film Innocence of Muslims which targeted US missions throughout the Muslim world, including an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which killed the US ambassador to Libya, and three other diplomatic staff.
More than 30 people have been killed in attacks or violent protests linked to the controversial US-made film Innocence of Muslims, including 12 people who died in an attack by a female suicide bomber in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
In Pakistan, around 1000 students from the the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party took to the streets in the eastern city Lahore, chanting anti-US slogans and burning the American flag.
A similar number demonstrated in Karachi, burning an effigy of US President Barack Obama, while in Islamabad, around 500 lawyers burst into the capital's diplomatic enclave, chanting anti-US slogans and castigating the government for not taking strong action against the film.
The Pakistan government declared Friday - the Muslim holy day - a national holiday in honour of Mohammed, in a sudden announcement made after religious parties called for a day of protest.
In neighbouring Afghanistan, about 1000 protesters took to the streets in the east of the country, blocking a key road to Kabul and chanting "Death to America" and "Death to the enemies of Islam."
Indonesia saw hundreds of protesters tear up the American flag and throw eggs at the US embassy in the capital Jakarta.
In Lebanon, gunmen opened fire on a KFC fast-food restaurant, just days after another outlet of the US chain was torched and a demonstrator killed in a protest over the film. No one was hurt in the most recent attack.
The Shiite movement Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has called for a string of protests all week in Lebanon to denounce what he described as the "worst attack ever on Islam".
Muslim men and women in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka also staged their first demonstration, with several hundred gathering in the capital Colombo near the US embassy to denounce the film.
Innocence of Muslims, a crudely made film produced by extremist Christians in the United States that depicts the Prophet as a thuggish womaniser, has triggered protests in at least 20 countries since excerpts were posted on the Internet.
In reaction to the uproar, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons mocking the film and caricaturing the Muslim prophet, including two showing him naked.
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