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Bahrain's Crackdown Draws International Criticism

An anti-government protester carrying water to throw on tear gas canisters fired by riot police, moves through a cemetery as gas billows behind him in the Shiite Muslim village of Jidhafs, Bahrain, on the outskirts of the capital of Manama, March 17, 2011

World powers are slamming Bahrain's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and the kingdom's use of foreign troops to help maintain order.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay says there has been a "military takeover" of hospitals in Bahrain - a tactic she calls "shocking and illegal." She also says Thursday that the U.N. has received reports of arbitrary arrests, killings and beatings of protesters and medical personnel.

NATO and the European Union have urged authorities in Bahrain to refrain from violence. The Associated Press says EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton phoned the nation's foreign minister to urge restraint and greater respect for human rights.

A high-ranking U.S. official says there can be no "military solution" in Bahrain to the "lack of trust" across the kingdom's "sectarian divide." In prepared remarks for a U.S. Senate panel on Thursday, undersecretary of state for political affairs Williams Burns also said Bahraini leaders must address the "political grievances" of protesters.

The unrest in the kingdom has watching Washington closely as Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

Amnesty International says Thursday that Bahraini authorities have systematically used excessive force in their crackdown on demonstrators in the capital, Manama. A report by the rights group calls for the protection of freedom of expression for all residents of the kingdom.

Protesters in other parts of the Gulf region and elsewhere in the Middle East took to the streets Thursday to show support for Bahrain's mostly Shi'ite activists.

Hundreds of Iraqis rallied in Karbala, a center of Shi'ite devotion in southern Iraq, and some lawmakers in Baghdad voiced their solidarity with the Bahraini people. News-agency reports also say small groups of activists gathered in Turkey and Iran to protest against Bahrain's use of Saudi troops to help maintain security.

The French news agency (AFP) says hundreds of Shi'ites in Kuwait rallied on Thursday to voice opposition to the Bahraini government crackdown and to voice support for their ruler's decision not to send troops to the kingdom.

Iran also recalled its ambassador to Bahrain as a protest against the crackdown.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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