U.S. says aware of reports of shots in Saudi Arabia

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 9:45 AM
U.S. says aware of reports of shots in Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Thursday it was aware of reports that shots had been fired during a protest in Saudi Arabia and that the United States would continue to monitor that situation.

"We're certainly aware of those reports," White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call to discuss the U.S. response to the unrest in Middle East and North Africa.

Witnesses said Saudi police fired shots when dispersing a protest by members of the Shi'ite minority in the OPEC member's oil-producing Eastern province, with one to four people wounded.

One witness said police fired percussion bombs to disperse the crowd of around 200 people, while a witness and Shi'ite activist said shots were fired.

Rhodes said U.S. officials have conveyed to Saudi officials in past conversations their support for universal rights and will continue to do so.

"What we have said to the Saudis and to all the people of the region is that we're going to support a set of universal values in any country in the region and that includes the right to peaceful assembly, to peaceful protests, to peaceful speech," he said.

"We'll, of course, continue to closely monitor this particular situation and get as many facts as we can about exactly what transpired since these reports are relatively recent."

(Reporting by Caren Bohan, editing by Philip Barbara)