UN chief asks Arab leaders to respect basic freedom

UN chief asks Arab leaders to respect basic freedom

Amid violent crackdowns on peaceful pro-democracy protesters in north Africa and Gulf, UN chief Ban Ki-moon today asked the governments there to exercise restraint and respect basic freedoms.

"The Secretary-General reiterates his call for the non-use of force and respect for basic freedoms," said a statement from his spokesperson Martin Nesirky. Hundreds of people have died during anti-regime protests in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, where people are continuing their demonstrations despite violent crackdowns by the security forces.

"Stressing that utmost restraint must be exercised by all concerned, he wishes to reaffirm his conviction that this is the time for broad-based dialogue and for genuine social and political reform," it said.

Ban's office said that he was in touch with leaders of the region to discuss developments in their countries.

"He has been encouraging them to listen to the aspirations of their people and respond to their legitimate aspirations," the statement said.

"In his calls, the Secretary-General has also advocated respect for freedom of media and uninterrupted communication services." Following the overthrow of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, large-scale protests have erupted in several countries in the region including Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.

US President Barack Obama has condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters in these three countries. Ban spoke with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain on Sunday and urged the government "to exercise maximum restraint as well as to calm the volatile situation," according to the statement.

Ban welcomed the "decision by King Hamad to initiate a dialogue," which the UN chief felt should be "broad-based and meaningful, involving the political opposition, civil society and women’s groups." Ban also spoke with the current leadership in Egypt and will be sending senior UN officials to Cairo, according to his office.

On Libya, the UN statement said, "The Secretary-General also intends to raise the very disturbing reports emanating from Libya with the Libyan leadership."

The UN chief has been encouraging regional leaders "to listen to the aspirations of their people and respond to their legitimate aspirations," the spokesman said.

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