WASHINGTON - While calling the blasphemous images of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) on Facebook "deeply offensive', the United States has reiterated its stand that the issue should be addressed through dialogue and debate, not through bans. "The best antidote to intolerance is not banning or punishing offensive speech, but rather a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, and proactive government outreach to minority religious groups and the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression," Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State tol the regular State Department briefing. He was responding to a question about Pakistans ban imposed on the private website in reaction to the sacrilegious material displayed a Facebook page. "Obviously, this is a difficult and challenging issue," Crowley said. "Many of the images that appear today on Facebook were deeply offensive to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We are deeply concerned about any deliberate attempt to offend Muslims or members of any other religious groups. We do not condone offensive speech that can incite violence or hatred." The State Department also expressed respect for any actions that need to be taken under Pakistani law to protect their citizens from offensive speech but expected a balance between restricting offensive material and ensuring flow of information for the Internet users. On Pakistan's actions in dealing with the issue, the spokesman stated, there are actions that Pakistan can take under Pakistani law. We respect those. But there needs to be a balance to make sure that in rightly restricting offensive speech, or even hate speech, that Pakistan continues to protect and promote the free flow of information.