Ban: Libya a warning to authoritarians
Cairo - The Libya war and revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia should be a warning to authoritarian leaders in the Middle East and North Africa still ordering forces to shoot demonstrators, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said.
Ban, who has castigated the king of Bahrain and strongly condemned the repression of demonstrations in Yemen and Syria in recent days, told AFP as he began a trip to Egypt and Tunisia on Monday that other nations have a duty to speak out.
"It is clear that a wind of change is sweeping this region," he said in an interview.
"The international community, while we closely follow the situation, has a responsibility to help those people, so that leaders could hear clearly and sincerely the voices of the people, their aspirations."
The UN secretary general said leaders in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria must have seen the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya where Muammar Gaddafi's brutal crackdown led to UN-sanctioned military strikes.
"We are living in an era of globalisation and communications, so they must have been following and they must have been listening to what the international community expects them to do," Ban said.
"I have been talking to all the leaders in the region, all the leaders without exception, every day, urging them to take bold reform measures that respect the will of their people and ensure freedom of speech."
In Syria, security forces have shot and killed several demonstrators in the southern town of Deraa. Ban last week called for "genuine reforms, not repression."
In the Yemeni capital Sana'a, more than 50 demonstrators have been killed.
The UN chief condemned the government and on Sunday said he doubted that President Ali Abdullah Saleh's decision to sack the government would calm the population.
Ban spoke with the Bahrain's monarch, King Hamad, last week to highlight his "deepest concern over reports of excessive and indiscriminate use of force by security forces and police in Bahrain".
He warned that their actions could breach international humanitarian law.
The Arab League was instrumental in getting the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1973 last week which approved military action against Gaddafi.
Ban has called the resolution "historic" because it "affirms unequivocally, the international community's determination to fulfil its responsibility to protect civilians from violence perpetrated upon them by their own government".
Leaders have a duty to maintain order, Ban told AFP. "But in doing that they must exercise maximum restraint and caution, fully respecting human rights. I will continue to speak out."
Ban is starting his tour with meetings with the Egyptian military and interim government on the dramatic changes since the fall in February of Hosni Mubarak.
He will hold similar meetings in Tunisia which set off the Arab revolution.
Egypt faced a new decisive moment with Saturday's referendum on a new constitution.
"Leaders have a responsibility to sincerely and authentically listen to the voices and aspirations of the people and take broad-based measures" with the opposition, civic groups, youth leaders "and particularly women leaders," Ban said.
"This is a quite historic moment; this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see the progress of democratisation, fuller democracy."
Ban said he would discuss possible UN assistance in electoral processes, constitution drafting, and social and economic development, during his stay in Cairo and Tunis.
He said he would also meet opposition leaders and civic groups. "Then I will try to say what I have heard, what I have seen, what I believe the United Nations can do."