Yemen, Bahrain must work with opposition: Obama

America vows to use its influence to encourage reform in the region.

Updated: May 20, 2011, 13:44 PM IST

Washington: US President Barack Obama called on the governments of Bahrain and Yemen to work with their opposition parties to resolve the unrest which has rocked their countries for months.

“We must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles” of human rights and freedoms, Obama said.

He singled out Yemen saying President Ali Abdullah Saleh “needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power”.

Saleh foiled a Gulf plan aimed at ending a bloody political dispute “by refusing to sign it” on Wednesday, the head of the opposition Common Forum, Yassin Saeed Noman said.

But a ruling Yemeni party official said the Gulf-sponsored accord to end the bloody political dispute would be signed on Sunday in Sana’a.

Turning to Bahrain, another key regional ally, Obama said: “We have insisted publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens.”

“The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail,” the US leader said.

“The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.”

Bahraini authorities have said 24 people, most of them protesters, were killed during the month-long unrest, which ended after a crackdown in March on the Shi’ite-dominated protest movement demanding political reforms.

The US President added that “one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict”.

He vowed in the coming months that America would use its influence to encourage reform in the region.

“Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States,” Obama said.

“We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future particularly young people.”

Bureau Report