Obama condemns violence in Middle East

President Barack Obama on Friday condemned reports of violent reprisals against protesters in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, and called for government restraint as unrest swept the volatile Middle East in the wake of Egypt's uprising.

The situation threatens U.S. interests and poses a major diplomatic and national security challenge to the Obama administration.

"I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur," Obama said.

"The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people."

The president's statement was read by White House press secretary Jay Carney to reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One from California to Oregon.

Autocratic rulers across the Middle East, including some U.S. allies, are facing public uprisings after protesters in Tunisia and Egypt succeeding in ousting their leaders.

In Bahrain, soldiers opened fire Friday on thousands of protesters defying a government ban. The tiny nation is a critical ally that houses the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, the centerpiece of the Pentagon's efforts to confront Iranian military influence.

In Libya, marchers clashed with security after a funeral for 15 protesters who were shot to death.

And in Yemen, anti-government demonstrators clashed with supporters of Yemen's longtime ruler and riot police, who fired tear gas and gunshots. Yemen's leader is a key U.S. ally in fighting al-Qaida terrorists.

Carney said Obama was getting frequent updates on the Middle East upheaval. The president is on the West Coast to meet with high-tech leaders and discuss plans to support innovation and boost jobs.