UN chief asks Arab leaders to respect basic freedoms

Betwa Sharma

United Nations, Feb 21 (PTI) Amid violent crackdownson peaceful pro-democracy protesters in north Africa and Gulf,UN chief Ban Ki-moon today asked the governments there toexercise restraint and respect basic freedoms.

"The Secretary-General reiterates his call for thenon-use of force and respect for basic freedoms," said astatement from his spokesperson Martin Nesirky.

Hundreds of people have died during anti-regimeprotests in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, where people arecontinuing their demonstrations despite violent crackdowns bythe security forces.

"Stressing that utmost restraint must be exercised byall concerned, he wishes to reaffirm his conviction that thisis the time for broad-based dialogue and for genuine socialand political reform," it said.

Ban''s office said that he was in touch with leaders ofthe region to discuss developments in their countries.

"He has been encouraging them to listen to theaspirations of their people and respond to their legitimateaspirations," the statement said.

"In his calls, the Secretary-General has alsoadvocated respect for freedom of media and uninterruptedcommunication services."

Following the overthrow of leaders in Tunisia andEgypt, large-scale protests have erupted in several countriesin the region including Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.

US President Barack Obama has condemned the use ofviolence against peaceful protesters in these three countries.

Ban spoke with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ofBahrain on Sunday and urged the government "to exercisemaximum restraint as well as to calm the volatile situation,"according to the statement.

Ban welcomed the "decision by King Hamad to initiate adialogue," which the UN chief felt should be "broad-based andmeaningful, involving the political opposition, civil societyand women�s groups."

Ban also spoke with the current leadership in Egyptand will be sending senior UN officials to Cairo, according tohis office.

On Libya, the UN statement said, "TheSecretary-General also intends to raise the very disturbingreports emanating from Libya with the Libyan leadership."

The UN chief has been encouraging regional leaders "tolisten to the aspirations of their people and respond to theirlegitimate aspirations," the spokesman said.

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