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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Ethiopia 'right' to stop protests
By Claire Bolderson
BBC News, Addis Ababa

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
Meles has been in power for the last 14 years
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has defended the use of force against protesters in Addis Ababa last month.

Thirty-six people are believed to have died when the security forces opened fire on demonstrators angry at the alleged rigging of May's elections.

Mr Meles told the BBC that shootings would be investigated, but police had a right to defend themselves.

"When an unconstitutional grab of power is attempted, every government has the right and obligation to stop it."

The international community on which Ethiopia is heavily dependent for aid had hoped May's elections would mark another milestone in Ethiopia's transition to democracy.

Praise

Mr Meles has been praised for opening up political debate and for liberalizing the economy.

Hundreds are still held after the arrests
Thousands were arrested during and after the protests

He was even invited to be a member of the British prime minister's Commission for Africa.

So it was something of a shock to his supporters in the West when the Ethiopian security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the capital last month. The demonstrators were protesting against what the opposition says were serious irregularities in the poll.

But Mr Meles told the BBC they were attempting to overthrow his government by imitating the "rose" and the "orange" revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine:

"I regret the fact that people have died, but we have to stop unconstitutional change of government."

The prime minister says there will be an investigation into the shootings - in particular, into whether excessive force was used.

But he gave no details of who would carry out the probe, nor of when it would take place.

The full election results have still not been published - they were due to be released on Friday.

But with investigations into some of the fraud allegations still under way, it is quite possible some or all of the results will be delayed.




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