Report: Panetta says anti-American protests ‘likely to continue’

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the wave of anti-American protests in the Muslim world was likely to continue, but suggested the level of violence was decreasing.

In an interview with reporters traveling with him to Asia, Panetta said that the administration will “continue to be very vigilant,” according to a report from the AP. “These demonstrations are likely to continue over the next few days, if not longer.”

Anger over an amateur anti-Islam film posted to YouTube sparked violent demonstrations at U.S. embassies around the Middle East, Africa and Asia last week, with four Americans being killed in Benghazi, Libya.

Administration officials have criticized the video while calling on foreign leaders to protect American installations and lives overseas. 

Panetta said the Defense Department had “deployed our forces to a number of areas in the region to be prepared to respond to any requests that we receive to be able to protect our personnel and our American property,” the report said.

“I think our approach right now is to not do anything until we’ve been requested to do it by the State Department,” he added.

The Pentagon has already sent about 100 Marines to Libya and Yemen, but reports Saturday said that a request to send troops to the U.S. embassy in Khartoum was rejected by the Sudanese government. 

Panetta said that host countries had the right to reject American requests to deploy additional security teams.

“My understanding is that they felt that they could provide sufficient security to be able to protect our embassy and our personnel there,” he said. “In many ways, as all of you know the primary responsibility for protecting embassies rests with the host country.”

The State Department has ordered all family members and non-emergency personnel from their posts in Sudan and Tunisia and said the embassy in Khartoum would be closed Sunday.

The U.S. and Germany embassy compounds in Khartoum were breached on Friday by protesters, two of whom were killed by Sudanese security forces.

Julian Pecquet contributed.