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The statement was stripped from the website by late Tuesday, and the Obama administration has since disavowed it. A senior administration official Wednesday said that it had been posted by embassy officials long before the protests in Cairo began and that it had not been cleared through Washington first.

Such explanations did little to dampen Mr. Romney’s criticism that it was a sign of the Obama administration’s weak posture in the Middle East.

“The administration was wrong to stand by a statement that sympathized with those who breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions,” Mr. Romney told reporters during a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Fla. “It’s never too late to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”

Mr. Obama responded in his CBS interview that there is a “broader lessen to be learned” from the incident.

“As president, one of the things I’ve learned is, you can’t do that,” he said. “That, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make them.”

‘Cannot happen again’

Meanwhile, the government of Libya apologized Wednesday, calling the attack on the U.S. post in its country “cowardly” and vowing to bring the attackers to justice.

Libya’s ambassador to Washington, Ali Aujali, on Wednesday said the killing of Mr. Stevens was a great loss for Libya. He called Mr. Stevens a friend and a great diplomat, and said two had played tennis together.

“He was the right man for the right position at the right time,” Mr. Aujali said.

Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur also condemned the “barbaric acts.”

“This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere,” he said.

“There is never any justification for this type of action,” he added. “There must and will be consequences. Those who were involved at all levels must be found and punished.”

Mr. Abushagur said the Libyan revolution was not complete just because longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s regime had been toppled.

“Our revolution will be complete when our state institutions are strong, when heavy arms are in the hands of only the government and when our streets are safe to all — both to Libyans and to our honored guests,” he said.

“The government cannot do this alone. I call on all true Libyans to hand in their weapons, and to work together to make a better Libya for all,” he added. “This kind of shameful behavior — mobs using force on their own accord — cannot happen again, no matter the target or motivation.”

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