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Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, country by country

By the CNN Wire Staff
RELATED TOPICS
  • Libya
  • Yemen
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Tunisia

(CNN) -- Demonstrations have spread across parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Here is the latest from each country and the roots of the unrest.

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NEW DEVELOPMENTS

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LIBYA

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-- U.S. President Barack Obama warned Libya's Moammar Gadhafi on Friday to immediately stop the "brutal repression" of Libyan civilians or face military consequences from a unified international community.

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-- Forces loyal to Gadhafi are honoring a cease-fire and are not fighting a militia group that is making advances in the eastern part of the country, a Libyan official said.

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-- Libya called for international observers to come and verify a cease-fire that witnesses say has failed to halt deadly fighting.

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-- Witnesses in the besieged coastal city of Misrata and in eastern Libya reported violence on Friday despite the cease-fire.

At least 28 people died and hundreds were wounded as fighting raged in the cities of Mistrata, Ajdabiya and Zintan on Friday, according to Khaled el-Sayeh, military spokesman for the opposition.

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-- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told CNN's "Situation Room" that the "U.S. is ready to act" and that Gadhafi "should be under no illusions that if he doesn't act immediately he will face swift and sure consequences, including military action."

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-- Four New York Times journalists missing in Libya have been captured by pro-government forces but will be released, the newspaper reported Friday.

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-- Libya's government announced an "immediate" cease-fire and a cessation of military action Friday to heed the resolution.

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-- France and the United States, among others, were skeptical of the pronouncement.

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-- Talk emerged of military action against Gadhafi's regime. Military preparations were being planned by Britain, France, Canada, Italy and Spain.

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Roots of unrest

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-- Protests in Libya started in February when demonstrators, fed up with delays, broke into a housing project the government was building and occupied it. Gadhafi's government, which has ruled since a 1969 coup, responded witha$24 billion fund for housing and development. A month later, more demonstrations were sparked when police detained relatives of those killed in an alleged 1996 massacre at the Abu Salim prison, according to Human Rights Watch. High unemployment and demands for freedom have also fueled the protests.

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YEMEN

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-- At least 40 people were killed and more than 100 hurt Friday in clashes between tens of thousands of anti-government protesters and security forces outside Sanaa University in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, medical officials on the scene said.

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-- President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that a state of emergency had been declared, and he expressed his "deep regret" over the casualties.

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-- Witnesses said the clashes began after government supporters and anti-government demonstrators threw rocks at each other.

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-- A spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, Mohammed Albasha, called on senior security authorities to bring the perpetrators of Friday's violence to justice.

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-- Separate statements from France and the United States, however, called on the Yemeni government to allow peaceful protests, implying that they believe the Yemeni government was responsible for the deaths and injuries.

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-- Amnesty International went further, saying the shootings were part of an "apparently coordinated sniper attack" on protesters.

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Roots of unrest

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-- Protesters have called for the ouster of Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978. The country has been wracked by a Shiite Muslim uprising, a U.S.-aided crackdown on al Qaeda operatives and a looming shortage of water. High unemployment fuels much of the anger among a growing young population steeped in poverty. The protesters also cite government corruption and a lack of political freedom. Saleh has promised not to run for president in the next round of elections.

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BAHRAIN

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-- The U.S. condemned the the detention of opposition activists in Bahrain and called for an end to violence against protesters.

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-- The rights group Amnesty International also condemned the detention of eight opposition figures and called for their immediate release. The group said no arrest warrants were produced and that authorities have not allowed the detainees access to lawyers.

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-- Security forces on Friday demolished the Pearl Monument, a landmark that had been the site of massive recent anti-government protests.

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-- The government explained the demolition by saying that it was "out of the government's keenness to optimize services and improve the infrastructure" and that it would "boost flow of traffic in this vital area of the capital," according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.

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-- Thousands of people congregated at the Pearl Roundabout during the height of anti-government demonstrations last month. The highway leading to the roundabout was clogged with protesters this week, though it was clear Friday and streets were quiet after a government crackdown on protesters.

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-- Members of the opposition expressed their disappointment at the demolition of a structure the government itself had described as one of the kingdom's "most striking landmarks."

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Roots of unrest

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-- Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy. But some are now calling for the removal of the royal family, which has led the Persian Gulf state since the 18th century. Young members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority have staged protests in recent years to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country's Sunni rulers have done little to address. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said authorities launched a clampdown on dissent in 2010. It accused the government of torturing some human rights activists.

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EGYPT

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-- A historic referendum will be held Saturday, viewed by many as the country's first democratic initiative after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak's autocratic regime.

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-- More than 40 million Egyptians are eligible to take their views to the ballot box and vote on amendments to the constitution that would set the stage for parliamentary and presidential elections later this year.

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-- A council of legal experts, assembled by Egypt's ruling armed forces, drafted the amendments to be voted on last month. The measures include limiting the president to two four-year terms, capping emergency laws to six months -- unless extended by a public referendum -- and placing elections under judicial oversight.

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-- Opponents say the proposed amendments were rushed and fall short of the people's demands. They claim that an early referendum gives an unfair edge to the Muslim Brotherhood and remnants of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, well-entrenched and politically savvy groups that are much better prepared to mobilize voters than newer factions still scrambling to get organized.

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-- Some critics of Saturday's vote say Egypt's security apparatus is ill-prepared for an election day.

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-- The military has declared Saturday a national holiday and assigned thousands of security agents to patrol approximately 13,000 polling places throughout the country.

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Roots of unrest

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-- Complaints about police corruption and abuses were among the top grievances of demonstrators who forced President Hosni Mubarak from office. Demonstrators also were angry about Mubarak's 30-year rule, a lack of free elections and economic issues, such as high food prices, low wages and high unemployment. Since Mubarak's departure, several thousand people have protested in Cairo's Tahrir Square to urge Egypt's new rulers to implement promised reforms. They pressed Egypt's Supreme Council to end an emergency law and release political prisoners, among other things. They also demanded civilian representation in government.

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SYRIA

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-- The use of lethalforce against peaceful demonstrators in Syria was deemed "unacceptable" Friday by the U.N. secretary-general. Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he is "concerned about the reported killing of demonstrators" in Diraa.

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-- His comments were echoed by the United States, which urged the Syrian government to "address the legitimate aspirations" of its people.

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-- "The United States strongly condemns the violence that has taken place in Syria today and calls on the Syrian government to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for today's violence must be held accountable," said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

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-- Riots erupted Friday in the Middle Eastern nation of Syria, witnesses said.

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-- The unrest spread through Hims, Diraa, Banyaas, Der Elzourand the capital, Damascus, and there were claims of deaths and injuries, but the assertions could not be independently confirmed.

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-- Demonstrators took to the streets to demand freedom and urge the end of corruption, but police surrounded hundreds of them and made arrests.

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-- A Facebook page calling for "Dignity Friday" showed images of clashes between protesters and security.

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Roots of unrest

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Opponents of the al-Assad government allege massive human rights abuses, and an emergency law has been in effect since 1963. Earlier in March, Syrian human rights attorney Haitham Maleh -- arrested in October 2009 during a government crackdown on lawyers and activists -- was freed, his son said. The move comes amid demands by many restive citizens for more economic prosperity, political freedom and civil liberty.

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SAUDI ARABIA

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-- Saudi reform activists responded with disappointment Friday after the king promised a major package of reforms meant to quell growing dissatisfaction in his country.

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-- Other than a pledge to set up an anti-corruption agency, the activists said, King Abdullah promised little to meet their demands. Instead, the long list of new measures simply expands powers for the kingdom and the religious establishment.

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-- Saudi Arabia, like other countries in the region, has seen increased demonstrations in recent months. Unlike other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, however, the demands of Saudi protesters are focused more on reforms and liberalization rather than demands for freedom or an end to the government's rule.

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Roots of unrest

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-- Demonstrators have demanded the release of Shiite prisoners who they feel are being held without cause. Others have taken to the streets over the creation of a constitutionalmonarchy, more rights and other reforms. Late last month, King Abdullah announced a series of sweeping measures aimed at relieving economic hardship and meeting with Bahrain's beleaguered monarch.

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PREVIOUS DEVELOPMENTS

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TUNISIA

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-- In two short months, this country has gone from decades of strict one-party rule to an explosion of more than 30 registered political parties.

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-- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Tunisia on Wednesday, part of a four-day trip that also included stops in France and Egypt.

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-- About 200 people applauded her as she walked into a room at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. She said the United States supported the Tunisian revolution for democracy, and more loud applause erupted.

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Roots of unrest

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-- The revolt was triggered when an unemployed college graduate set himself ablaze after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income. Protesters complained about high unemployment, corruption, rising prices and political repression. An interim government came to power after an uprising prompted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to leave the country January 14. Those demonstrations helped spark protests across North Africa and the Middle East.

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ELSEWHERE

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Sporadic demonstrations have erupted in recent weeks in other Middle Eastern and northern African nations, such as Algeria, Djibouti, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Kuwait and Sudan, and in the Palestinian territories.

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