The Eid ul-Fitr reception was held almost a month after the official end of the month on Aug. 19, delayed, officials say, because of Clinton’s travel schedule.
“The date [of the reception] was set purely because of scheduling considerations, especially given lengthy travel abroad recently,” a State Department spokesman told CNSNews.com via email.
The spokesman provided a copy of the Secretary’s schedule, showing that Thursday’s event was scheduled about 24 hours ahead of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
“Although I am many weeks overdue in saying it: Eid Mubarak,” Clinton said. “No matter how belated we are honoring Eid and the end of Ramadan, this is a cherished tradition here at the State Department.”
Clinton acknowledged the deaths, saying, “Tonight, our gathering is more somber than any of us would like. This comes during sad and difficult days for the State Department family.
“We lost four Americans,” Clinton said. “They were good and brave men. They were committed to the cause of building a brighter future for the people of Libya.
“And we condemn the violence in the strongest terms, the violence against our posts in Benghazi, in Egypt, and now in Yemen,” Clinton said.
Clinton invited the Libyan ambassador to speak, and he too spoke about the deaths of the four Americans, including two former Navy Seals who were guarding embassy personnel.
“Standing beside you here in the Department of State, it shows the world how much the Americans are standing by the Libyans and the Libya revolution,” Aujali said. “You do support us during the war, but you have to support us during the peace. We are going through a very difficult time, and we need the help of friends.
“It is a very sad day for me, since I learned of the death of my dear friend and colleague, Ambassador Chris Stevens,” Aujali said. “I knew Chris for the last six years. We play tennis together, we drive in one car, and we had some traditional Libyan food in my house.
“I must tell you, Madam Secretary, and tell the American people, that Chris is a hero,” Aujali said. “He is a real hero. He’s the man who believes in the Libyans and the Libyan ability that they will achieve democracy after 42 years of the dictatorship.”
Clinton spoke about faith and tolerance at the event, including about the Obama administration’s “2012 Hours Against Hate” initiative to encourage young people to “put themselves in another person’s shoes through service projects.”
“So far, young people from all over the world have pledged thousands of volunteer hours to help people from a different background, to see them as a fellow human being, not a stereotype, not a caricature, but another real live person –people who don’t look like you, live like you, pray like you, but with whom we will share this planet,” Clinton said. “And therefore, we have work to do.”
Four people have been arrested in connection with the attack, the top aide to the president of the Libyan parliament said on Friday. CNN reports that Monem Elyssayer, the chief aid to Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur, told the news organization that those arrested were not directly tied to the attack. Their identities have not been made public.