UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council urged all parties in Congo on Wednesday to end violent clashes and open a peaceful political dialogue on the holding of presidential elections.
The council strongly condemned the violence that it said has led to the death of at least 32 people, including four police officers.
Congo's government has said at least 17 people were killed Monday in clashes between security forces and demonstrators opposed to President Joseph Kabila extending his term.
Tensions have risen as indications have increased that Kabila will stay in office after his term legally ends in December.
Congo's electoral commission said November's scheduled presidential vote won't be possible, and a court has determined Kabila can stay in power until another election is organized.
The statement approved by all 15 council members stressed "the crucial importance of peaceful, credible, inclusive, transparent and timely presidential elections, in accordance with the constitution."
The council also called for all parties "to engage into an open, inclusive and peaceful political dialogue over the holding of presidential elections, in accordance with the constitution." Members expressed support for African Union efforts to facilitate the dialogue.
There were attacks on the headquarters of five opposition political parties in Congo late Monday, and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement that riots erupted early Tuesday, with shots fired. It cited reports of "excessive use of force" by security forces and demonstrators.
The Security Council urged all parties to remain calm and called on Congolese authorities "to exercise maximum restraint in their response to protests."
Council members also called on the authorities "to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially the right of peaceful assembly." They urged that those responsible for violations and human rights abuses be held accountable. And they urged all parties to stop acts that further heighten tensions.