Britain urges restraint in Libya, Bahrain demos

16th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain on Wednesday called for restraint in Libya and Bahrain after anti-regime demonstrations in the latest displays of unrest in the Arab world.

Alistair Burt, a junior foreign minister with responsibility for the Middle East, expressed concern after dozens of people were injured in clashes in Libya's second city, Benghazi.

"We are concerned by reports of the arrest of Libyans who have called for demonstrations or spoken to the media and of violent incidents during demonstrations in Benghazi," Burt said.

"I call on the Libyan government to respect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from violence."

The minister also expressed concern at the "excessive use of force" by police during demonstrations demanding regime change in Bahrain, the Gulf state which is a close ally of the United States.

Thousands of Bahrainis attended the funeral Wednesday of a second protester killed in clashes with police while angry demonstrators occupied a square in the capital Manama.

"I am concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police during demonstrations in Bahrain that led to the death of two protestors," Burt said. "I call on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from violence."

The Foreign Office statement recalled that Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Bahrain last week when he "raised the importance of open, plural societies, and of promoting universal values".

Burt added: "I welcome the progress that the Government of Bahrain has made on political reform in the recent past, but it is essential that this process continues to meet legitimate aspirations for greater political and social freedoms."

Washington has said it was "very concerned" over the violence in Bahrain and also called for restraint in a country ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa family which was the scene of deadly unrest in the 1990s.

© 2011 AFP

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