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Clinton criticises Bahrain over protester clashes

media captionHillary Clinton: "The situation in Bahrain is alarming"

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she is alarmed by developments in Bahrain and criticised the government's use of force against protesters.

The US has made it clear to officials in Bahrain that "we think they're on the wrong track", she told the BBC.

At least three civilians were reportedly killed in the country after police fired on mainly Shia protesters.

Mrs Clinton also said a decision should soon be made on action in Libya.

In an interview with the BBC in Cairo, Mrs Clinton said authorisation through the UN Security Council was key and insisted there should be Arab participation and leadership in any action.

Libyan rebels have argued the West needs to speed up efforts to impose a no-fly zone over the country, a move aimed at preventing embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from bombing his people.

Bahrain clashes

Asked about violence in Bahrain, Mrs Clinton said: "We deplore the use of force against demonstrators, and we deplore the use of force by demonstrators. We want a peaceful resolution."

Security forces in the capital Manama have used tanks, tear gas, water cannons and helicopters to remove hundreds of anti-government demonstrators from Pearl Square in the city centre.

Mrs Clinton has urged the "highest levels of the government" to resume a political dialogue, she said.

Meanwhile, Bahrain's health minister, himself a Shia, has resigned in protest against the government's use of force, and the BBC's Caroline Hawley in Manama says Shia judges have resigned en masse.

Troops have also reportedly surrounded and taken over the Salmaniya hospital, where the injured were being treated.

A doctor in Bahrain told the BBC the troops were shooting at people inside the hospital, threatening staff with live ammunition.

No-one was being allowed in or out of the hospital, and the injured are now reportedly being treated at mosques or at home.

"We also would remind the Bahraini government to protect medical facilities and to facilitate treatment of the injured," Mrs Clinton said.

"And we have called on our friends in the Gulf, four of whom are assisting the Bahrain security efforts, to force through a political solution, not a security stand-off."

Bahrain - which has a population of 800,000 and is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet - is the first Gulf country to be thrown into turmoil by the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world. Protests there began last month.

Protecting Libyan citizens

Mrs Clinton also told the BBC a decision would soon be made to help protect the citizens of Libya, where an ongoing effort continues to depose Col Gaddafi.

She said it was important for the US not to act unilaterally because that was what Washington had been criticised for in the past.

Mrs Clinton also praised the Arab League for its statement in support of a no-fly zone.

On Tuesday, G8 ministers met in Paris to consider calls for the no-fly zone over Libya, and Mrs Clinton met with Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril.

Rebel leaders have appealed for international help in limiting Col Gaddafi's resources as his forces maintain their onslaught on rebel positions in the east of Libya.

More on this story

  • Bahrain crackdown on protests in Manama's Pearl Square