The Obama administration says governments across the Middle East should lead the way to reform demanded by demonstrators in Libya, Bahrain and elsewhere.
With a rising death toll in Libya, where security forces have fired on protesters, and continuing demonstrations in Bahrain and Yemen, the United States is urging Arab governments to listen to calls for change, rather than repressing them.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. spoke on NBC?s Meet The Press program. "What we are encouraging Bahrain and other governments in the region to do is to recognize that this is a yearning for change and reform that is not going to go away, that it needs to be respected, and that they need to get ahead of it by leading rather than being pushed," she said.
Ambassador Rice declined to predict the end result of reform movements sweeping the Middle East, but said the status quo in many countries is unsustainable.
"There needs to be a process for reform," said Ambassador Rice. "There are conditions that are inherently unstable: a youth bulge, high unemployment, a lack of political openness. And we have pressed publicly and privately for the kind of change that is necessary."
The American diplomat denied any inconsistency in the U.S. response to demonstrations in Egypt, Bahrain, and other nations.
"The [U.S.] message is the same: no violence," she said. "Respect the universal rights of people to assemble, to protest, to speak, to form political organizations, and get ahead of reform [embrace it]."
Appearing in a pre-recorded interview on ABC?s This Week program, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States will continue to advocate freedom and democracy across the globe, but conceded that abrupt change can be perilous and bring unforeseen results.
"Americans are in favor of human rights, freedom, democracy," said Clinton. "We know that, ultimately, the most progress that can be made on behalf of human beings anywhere is when those individuals are empowered, when they have governments that are responsive.
"That is what we want to see," continued Clinton. "At the same time, we recognize that this process can be hijacked by both outside and inside elements."
As an example, Secretary Clinton pointed to the Iranian revolution of the late 1970s, where the people overthrew the totalitarian Shah and saw a totalitarian theocratic regime come to power in its place. She said the goal is not simply for nations to hold an election in which one autocratic ruler is replaced by another, but rather for a democratic process to take root that yields true representative governments.