Crackdown on pro-democracy protestors must stop: Ban

Betwa Sharma

United Nations, Feb 18 (PTI) UN chief Ban Ki-moon hasslammed the use of violence to suppress anti-governmentprotests in the Middle East, and asked the Arab leaders toinstead "learn lessons and deliver bold reforms".

"I will say it once again: the situation calls forbold reforms, not repression," Ban told reporters.

Commenting on the violent police raid on pro-democracyprotesters in Bahrain, the UN Secretary General said: "Thereports from Bahrain overnight are deeply troubling. Here aselsewhere, violence should not be used against peacefuldemonstrators and against journalists".

"It must stop," he added, calling on those responsibleto be brought to justice.

He said the protests had been sparked by people''sfrustration at the lack of jobs and the lack of freedom ofexpression, assembly and communication and of not being ableto participate in their country''s political process.

"We have seen the wide (spread) demonstrations,outbursts of demonstrations and voices are now on the streets.

That means they have been frustrated enough by the lack offreedom, lack of opportunities.

"That is the lesson, which the leaders should learnand try to change, as soon as possible, reflecting such strongvoices from their own people," he said.

Pro-democracy protests have raged in the Arab worldever since successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt threw outautocratic regimes. Protests have been witnessed in Libya,Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen and Jordan.

The US administration, meanwhile, asked Bahrain not touse force against peaceful protesters, as the army in the tinyGulf kingdom vowed "strict measures" to restore order after aviolent raid on anti-regime demonstrators left four peopledead and scores wounded.

"We oppose the use of violence in Bahrain," WhiteHouse spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, adding that the UScalls on the government of Bahrain to "show restraint inresponding to peaceful protests."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called her Bahraincounterpart Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa to express herdeep concern about recent events and urged restraint.

Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the powerful SenateForeign Relations Committee, in a letter to King Hamad ofBahrain expressed his strong opposition to use of forceagainst peaceful protesters in his country.

Commenting on Egypt where anti-regime protests toppledlongtime president Hosni Mubarak, Ban said there must be atransition from the present military leadership to thedemocratic civilian rule following free and fair elections.

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