The United States on Friday blasted the "brutal crackdown" this week by the government of Sudan against protesters in Khartoum, calling it "heavy-handed" and "disproportionate."

Friday saw a fifth consecutive day of protests against fuel price hikes that have seen scores of demonstrators shot dead by government forces.

"The United States condemns the government of Sudan's brutal crackdown on protesters in Khartoum, including the excessive use of force against civilians that has reportedly resulted in dozens of casualties," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

"Such a heavy-handed approach by Sudanese security forces is disproportionate, deeply concerning, and risks escalation of the unrest."

Activists, who have called for the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir, called for more demonstrations later Friday and again on Saturday.

Washington issued an appeal that the government allow "peaceful protests," as Sudan's interior ministry announced Friday that 600 people had been arrested for taking part in the anti-government demonstrations.

The U.S. government is "alarmed by reports that the Sudanese government has arrested or detained civil society activists, shut down independent media, and restricted access to the Internet and cell phone networks; activities such as these inhibit peaceful expression of citizens' grievances," Psaki said.

"The United States condemns violence by government forces and protesters, and urges restraint on both sides."


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She added: "We also call on the government of Sudan to respect the universal rights of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech, assembly, and peaceful protest."

Psaki urged the Khartoum government "to provide the political space necessary for a meaningful dialogue with the Sudanese people about the political and economic challenges facing their country."