ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE  — US President Barack Obama on Friday condemned reports of violence in response to protests in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen and urged government restraint as unrest swept the volatile region in the aftermath of Egypt's uprising. The perilous situation threatens US interests and poses a major diplomatic and national security challenge to the Obama administration.

"I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur," Obama said.

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"The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people."

The president's statement was read aloud by White House press secretary Jay Carney to reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One from California to Oregon.

Autocratic rulers across the Middle East, including some US allies, are facing public uprisings after protesters in Tunisia and last week Egypt succeeding in ousting their leaders.

In Bahrain, soldiers opened fire Friday on thousands of protesters defying a government ban. The tiny nation is a critical ally that is home port for the US Navy's 5th Fleet, the centerpiece of the Pentagon's efforts to confront Iranian military influence.

In Libya, marchers clashed with security personnel after a funeral where the bodies of 15 protesters shot to death were buried.

And in Yemen, anti-government demonstrators clashed with supporters of Yemen's longtime ruler and riot police, who fired tear gas and live ammunition. Yemen's leader is a key US ally in fighting al-Qaida terrorists.

Carney said Obama was getting frequent updates on the Middle East upheaval. The president is on the West Coast to meet with high-tech leaders and discuss plans to support innovation and boost jobs in the United States.


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