New York, Mar 21 2011 7:10PM
An inclusive dialogue on political, social and economic reform is the only way forward for Bahrain, where Government forces have cracked down after weeks of popular protests, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
Mr. Ban said the United Nations is ready to help all sides in Bahrain so as to end the violence, protect civilians and promote what he described as necessary reform.
"The United Nations is in touch with all the Bahraini parties on the ground, including the Government and key opposition parties," he <"http://www.un.org/apps/sg/offthecuff.asp?nid=1756">told journalists in Cairo, Egypt. "I appeal to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint.
"All involved, including Bahrain's neighbours and the wider international community, should seek peaceful means to ensure national unity and stability, and to create an environment conducive for credible reform."
Last week the country's security forces and police reportedly used heavy force against protesters in the capital, Manama, and they also took over hospitals and medical centres, sparking expressions of deep concern from Mr. Ban and other senior UN officials.
The protests are part of a wider wave of unrest across North Africa and the Middle East since the start of the year, with long-standing regimes toppled in Egypt and Tunisia and fierce fighting in Libya.
"It can be hard to see beyond the escalating violence," he said. "But there is no holding back the movements for reform and democracy that have taken root. Leaders must listen to the legitimate aspirations of their people. Open and inclusive dialogue is crucial. So is respect for human rights. People are eager to build prosperous, inclusive, democratic societies under the rule of law."