US expresses concern about Swaziland crackdown

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The United States is expressing concern about a crackdown on anti-monarchy demonstrations in Swaziland.

A statement released Wednesday by the U.S. Embassy in Mbabane criticized security forces in the southern African nation for preventing peaceful gatherings and the government for banning a union.

The U.S. urges "the Swazi government to take the necessary steps to ensure the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Swazi citizens."

With political parties banned, unions play a leading role in pushing for reform in sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarchy.

Turnout was low for protests called last week by labor and other activists. The government declared the protests illegal, and put large numbers of police and soldiers on the streets.