US not taking sides in Tunisia unrest: Clinton

AFP, Wednesday 12 Jan 2011

Washington was not taking sides in escalating unrest in Tunisia, but called for a peaceful solution

"We are not taking sides" regarding the deadly clashes between protesters and government forces in Tunisia, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton said according to an English-language transcript of an interview with Al-Arabiya television, received by AFP on Wednesday.

"But we are saying we hope that there can be a peaceful resolution. And I hope that the Tunisian government can bring that about," she said.
Tunisia's foreign ministry had summoned US ambassador Gordon Gray on Monday after the State Department expressed concerns about "reports of the use of excessive force by the government of Tunisia" against demonstrators.

"We regret that because, obviously, we have got a lot of very positive aspects of our relationship with Tunisia," said Clinton.

"What the ambassador and what the State Department back in Washington did was just express concern that this is a protest that has, unfortunately, provoked such a reaction from the government, leading to the deaths of mostly young people who were protesting," she added.

Tunisian authorities have struggled to contain the unrest, with as many as 50 people killed in protests against unemployment, according to labour and human rights activists.

The government contested the death toll saying only 21 people had died in the three days of violence.

Clinton is on a Gulf tour which has so far taken her to the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Oman, while she is expected to conclude it in Qatar.

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