Clinton says Arizona shooter was "extremist"

ABU DHABI Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:04pm EST

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the shooter who attacked Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords an "extremist," and said people worldwide should reject radical ideologies.

Clinton, speaking Monday in the United Arab Emirates, made the comment in response to a question about the September 11, 2001 attacks, carried out by al Qaeda.

At a televised town hall-style meeting, Clinton was asked why U.S. opinion often appears to blame the entire Arab world for 9/11. Clinton said this was due to misperceptions and the media impact of political violence.

"We have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman Congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot by an extremist in our country," she added.

"We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence."

The U.S. government has charged the 22-year-old suspected shooter with trying to assassinate Giffords by shooting her in the head during a rampage that killed six people and wounded 14 in Tucson, Arizona.

The shooting has fueled debate about extreme political rhetoric in the United States after an acrimonious campaign for congressional elections in November.

Clinton, who said she hoped her current trip to the Gulf would help to strengthen U.S. and Arab mutual understanding, said both societies should work to offset the sometimes overly loud voices on the political fringes.

"The extremists and their voices, the crazy voices that sometimes get on the TV, that's not who we are, that's not who you are, and what we have to do is get through that and make it clear that that doesn't represent either American or Arab ideas or opinions," she said.

She said Muslims and particularly Arabs around the world should not believe media accounts of widespread U.S. antipathy toward them in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

"Although 9/11 was a very terrible tragedy for our country, in the years since, we have been working hard to build our partnerships and our relationships with the Arab world in particular," Clinton said, noting that President Barack Obama had made improving links with the Muslim world a key goal.

"This president and this administration are determined to isolate the extremists and not to let the extremists color the view in any place."

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Andrew Hammond and Peter Graff)