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US Calls on Bahrain to Refrain from Violence

Bahraini army tanks take position near Pearl Square in Manama, February 17, 2011

The United States is again urging Bahrain’s government to refrain from using violence against peaceful demonstrators. U.S. officials are calling on Middle Eastern governments to be more responsive to their people.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration is telling U.S. ally Bahrain that violence is not an appropriate response to the protests there.

"We oppose the use of violence by the government of Bahrain, just as we oppose the use of violence by other governments in the region against peaceful protesters," he said.

Carney told reporters Thursday that the administration believes the government in Bahrain has a responsibility to maintain peace and security.

He said each country is different, but certain principles apply throughout the region. "What is the same is what we believe about these universal values and universal rights. And we have urged governments in the region - the Egyptian government, the Bahraini government, but in general - to be responsive and to open up their societies and to get ahead of the process in order to respond to the aspirations of their people." said the press secretary.

The body of a person killed during clashes between demonstrators and police lies in the street in Manama, February 17, 2011
The body of a person killed during clashes between demonstrators and police lies in the street in Manama, February 17, 2011

Riot police stormed a group of protesters in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, on Thursday, leaving several of the demonstrators dead and hundreds wounded.

Carney expressed President Barack Obama’s condolences to the families of the victims. He urged the government in Bahrain to hold accountable those who have used excessive force against the demonstrators.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke with their counterparts in Bahrain on Thursday. Clinton said she expressed Washington’s shock and concern about the overnight crackdown on the demonstrators. She said Bahrain had long been a U.S. ally, and she called for restraint. Gates said the United States has been encouraging political and economic reforms in the region for some time.

Demonstrations took place in other Middle Eastern countries on Thursday. In Yemen, dozens of people have been wounded in protest-related violence in recent days. And demonstrators in Libya have flooded the streets in four cities, defying a government crackdown, to demand the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

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