WASHINGTON - US Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has criticized President Barack Obama for apologizing for the burning of the Noble Qur'an at a US base in Afghanistan.
There was nothing deliberately done wrong here, Santorum said on the ABC's This Week program on Sunday, February 26.
This was something that happened as a mistake.
Afghan laborers found charred copies of the Noble Qur'an while collecting rubbish at Bagram airbase in Kabul last week.
Hearing the news, thousands of angry Afghans took to the streets to protest the desecration of the Muslim holy book. At least 30 people were killed in the violent protests.
Seeking to calm the Afghan anger, Obama apologized for the Qur'an burning, describing the incident as a mistake.
But Obama's apology drew fire from Santorum, who is seeking to win the Republican Party nomination to run in the November election.
Say it's unfortunateâ¦but to apologize for something that was not an intentional act is something that the president of the United States in my opinion should not have done.
I think it shows weakness, Santorum said of the apology.
Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich earlier criticized Obama's apology, saying it was an outrage for the US president to apologize.
Muslims consider the Qur'an the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence. Desecration is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy.
Santorum said that the Afghan government should apologize for the killing of US soldiers in protests against the Qur'an burning.
Killing Americans in uniform is not a mistake. It was something that deliberate, he said.
"The response needs to be apologized for by (President Hamid) Karzai and the Afghan people for attacking and killing our men and women in uniform and overreacting to this inadvertent mistake," he said.
That is the real crime here, not what our soldiers did."
Two US soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan soldier last week in protest at the burning of the Muslim holy book.
Two senior US officers were also killed within the interior ministry in Kabul on Saturday, prompting the US commander to pull all advisors out of government ministries.
The US embassy has been in lockdown since the violence erupted, and has warned of a "heightened potential threat to American citizens in Afghanistan".
The high-level killings prompted NATO, Britain and Germany to withdraw their staff from Afghan ministries.
The violence escalated on Monday when a suicide bomber attacked a NATO base at Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan, killing nine people.
"The foreign forces have insulted our religion and this attack was revenge," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The Afghan interior ministry said six civilians were killed, two policemen and a soldier, while a further 12 people were wounded.
But there were no reports of NATO casualties, according to a spokesman for the US-led International Security Assistance Force.
Similar incidents of Qur'an desecration in the past have caused deep divisions and resentment among Afghans towards the tens of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan.Seven foreign UN workers were killed during protests that raged across Afghanistan for three days in April 2011 after a US pastor burned the Qur'an in Florida.