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Clinton: Libyan Bloodshed 'Completely Unacceptable'

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks at the State Department in Washington Feb. 22, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks at the State Department in Washington Feb. 22, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday said violence unleashed against Libyan protesters is "completely unacceptable" and that the United States will take "appropriate steps" to deal with the situation. Clinton and other U.S. officials are focusing on the safety of several thousand American citizens in Libya.

Officials here indicate they are tempering their Libya rhetoric out of concern for Americans who might become stranded in Libya. But Clinton’s remarks still were the harshest by the United States thus far about the violence there.

At a press event with Latvian Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Clinton called the bloodshed in Libya, which might have claimed hundreds of victims, "completely unacceptable" and said it is the responsibility of Libyan authorities to respect the universal rights of their people.

She said that although the Libyan government shutdown of communications is limiting U.S. understanding of the situation, the American and world response to the violence is unequivocal. "I think that the message today is very clear and unambiguous from the entire international community. There is no ambivalence. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the violence must stop and that the government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of all of its citizens, and to support the exercise of those rights," she said.

Clinton said the safety and well-being of Americans in Libya is the Obama administration’s highest immediate priority and that the United States is in contact with officials in Libya and neighboring states on their behalf.

Officials here say several thousand Americans, many with dual U.S. and Libyan citizenship, live in the North African country, including hundreds working in the oil industry.

The State Department on Monday ordered the evacuation of family members of embassy staffers and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. mission in Tripoli. But officials noted with some concern that none of the affected group of several dozen people has been able to leave.

Clinton noted with approval steps by the monarchy in Bahrain to ease tensions after deadly violence there between security forces and protestors, including a prisoner release and overture for dialogue with opposition elements.

"We hope Bahrain’s friends across the region and around the world will support this initiative as a constructive path to preserve Bahrain’s stability and help meet the aspirations of all its people. As we have said, these steps will need to be followed by concrete actions and reforms," she said.

Appealing for continued restraint in Bahrain, Clinton urged parties there to "work quickly" so that a national dialogue can produce meaningful measures that respond to the legitimate aspirations of all of the people of Bahrain.

The Sunni Muslim-led Persian Gulf state, with a Shi'ite majority, hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and is considered critical to American security interests.

Clinton also condemned reports of continued violence in Yemen, while welcoming initial steps by authorities in Egypt and Tunisia toward democratic reform.