US chides Kuwait in wake of protest clashes

WASHINGTON - The United States on Tuesday issued a veiled criticism of its ally Kuwait after 100 protesters were hurt in weekend clashes with police, defending the "universal right" to freedom of assembly.

On Sunday, riot police used rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades and beat up hundreds of demonstrators to break up the protest, which the opposition described as the largest demonstration in the oil-rich Gulf state's history.

The Kuwaiti opposition said Monday it will push ahead with protests until the government meets its demands for reform.

"We're obviously following the situation in Kuwait City carefully," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"We call on all sides to exercise restraint, to approach their differences peacefully and in a manner that's consistent with the Kuwaiti constitution and rule of law, including the universal rights of Kuwaitis to peacefully assemble and to express themselves," Nuland said.

"We support, whether it's in Kuwait or whether it's anywhere else in the world, the right of peaceful assembly."

The opposition called Sunday's demonstration to protest against a decision by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to amend the electoral law. Activists claim the change is aimed at electing a rubber-stamp parliament.

The Islamist and nationalist-led opposition, which says that more than 100,000 people took part in the protest, has pledged to boycott snap parliamentary polls slated for December 1.

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