Saturday, February 19, 2011

Middle East: Libya threatens US students

Al Jazeera

Libyans in US allege coercion
Ambassador denies students' claims embassy threatened to cut scholarships if they missed pro-Gaddafi rallies.

"In an apparent effort to control the public narrative in the wake of rare protests that have spread throughout Libya, the country's government is threatening to withdraw scholarship funding from citizens studying in the United States unless they attend pro-government rallies in Washington this weekend, Al Jazeera has learned.

"Several Libyans studying in the US said they and their peers have received phone calls this week from a man employed by the Libyan embassy instructing them to join rallies in the capital on Friday and Saturday. The man told the students that their government-funded scholarships would be cut off if they did not attend.

"Ali Suleiman Aujali, the Libyan ambassador to the United States, denied the students' allegations. He told Al Jazeera they were "completely incorrect" and an attempt to "blackmail" the government's reputation.

"The reports of coercion come as protesters in Libya mounted a "day of rage" on Thursday and continued their calls for the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year reign as Libya’s leader.

"At least 14 people are reported to have died as a result of unrest that began on Monday and has broken out in cities throughout the country, including Tripoli, the capital, and Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, where most of the deaths have been reported."

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