UN chief ''outraged'' over attacks on protesters in Libya

Betwa Sharma

United Nations, Feb 22 (PTI) UN Secretary-General BanKi-moon has expressed "outrage" at reports of pro-democracyprotesters in Libya being shot at from war planes by securityforces.

"The Secretary-General is outraged at press reports thatthe Libyan authorities have been firing at demonstrators fromwar planes and helicopters," said a statement issued by hisoffice.

"Such attacks against civilians, if confirmed, wouldconstitute a serious violation of international humanitarianlaw and would be condemned by the Secretary-General in thestrongest terms," it added.

''The New York Times'' reported that yesterday securityforces used fighter jets and live ammunition which witnessesdescribed as "small bombs" on protesters in Tripoli.

The brutal crackdown was making it difficult for theprotesters to continue the demonstrations against MuammarGaddafi''s 40-year-old rule.

"The world is watching the situation in Libya withalarm," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in astatement. "We join the international community in stronglycondemning the violence in Libya."

Yesterday, Ban urged the Libyan leader to stop the"escalating scale of violence" in the country.

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

"He (Ban) reiterated his call for respect for basicfreedoms and human rights, including peaceful assembly andinformation," it said adding that he has been in close touchwith key states about the Libya crisis.

Following the overthrow of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt,large-scale protests have erupted in several countries in theregion including Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.

Human Rights Watch had put the figure of dead at least223, but some other international rights groups said therecould be up to 400 dead in the unrest.

US President Barack Obama has also condemned the use oflethal force against peaceful demonstrators in these threecountries.

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.

The UN leader had a 40-minute telephone conversation withKadhafi earlier to press for an end to violence and abroad-based dialogue with the opposition.

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