Ban asks Libya to stop violence against protesters

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Betwa Sharma

United Nations, Feb 21 (PTI) UN chief Ban-Ki-moontoday asked Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to stop the violentcrackdown against peaceful protesters and initiate abroad-based dialogue to address their concerns.

As the death toll mounted to over 200 in the Libyanunrest and international calls for restraint grew, Banexpressed deep concern at the escalating scale of violence inthe country.

"The Secretary-General expressed deep concern at theescalating scale of violence and emphasised that it must stopimmediately," said a statement from the UN.

"He (Ban) reiterated his call for respect for basicfreedoms and human rights, including peaceful assembly andinformation," it said.

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

Hundreds of people have been killed in a brutalcrackdown by the Libyan government on people protestingagainst the regime of Gaddafi. According to Human RightsWatch, 223 people have been killed in the five days ofviolence.

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

Reacting to the Libyan leader''s explanation of thegovernment''s action, Ban said that the civilian population hadto be protected under any circumstances.

"He (Ban) urged all parties to exercise restraint andcalled upon the authorities to engage in broad-based dialogueto address legitimate concerns of the population," thestatement said.

Ban''s office also said that he was in telephonecommunication with leaders of the region to discussdevelopments in their countries.

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

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

In Bahrain, last week, at least three people werekilled and many more injured security forces entered the campof protestors in the night without any warning.

Following an outburst of international censure, KingHamad bin Isa Al Khalifa called for a national dialogue toease continuing political turbulence in the country.

Ban spoke with King Al Khalifa of Bahrain yesterdayand urged the government "to exercise maximum restraint aswell as to calm the volatile situation".

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".

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