Obama calls Saudi, Bahraini Kings over crackdown
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Last Updated: Thursday, March 17, 2011, 11:23
  
Washington: US President Barack Obama called King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and King Hamad of Bahrain on Wednesday to express "deep concern" about a crackdown on Shi’ite-led opposition protests in Bahrain.

"The President expressed his deep concern over the violence in Bahrain and stressed the need for maximum restraint," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

"The President also stressed the importance of a political process as the only way to peacefully address the legitimate grievances of Bahrainis and to lead to a Bahrain that is stable, just, more unified and responsive to its people.”

"The President reiterated his support for the national dialogue initiative led by Bahraini Crown Prince Salman," Carney said.

Obama's telephone call came after Bahraini authorities launched a crackdown on opposition demonstrators in Manama, killing five people, days after a Saudi-led force marched into Bahrain to bolster the Sunni minority government.

It also coincided with signs of tension and disagreement on the implications of revolts sweeping the Arab world between Washington and its crucial Middle Eastern ally Saudi Arabia.

Earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised the deployment of Gulf Cooperation Council troops in Bahrain to quell political unrest as the wrong response.

She said the GCC deployment of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was "on the wrong track. There is no security answer to this”.

The events taking place in a strategic Arab kingdom of the oil-rich Gulf that is home to the US Fifth Fleet were "alarming" for the United States, Hillary said during a visit to Cairo.

"We think that there is no security answer to the aspirations and demands of the demonstrators," she said in an interview with CBS television.

"We have made it very clear to the Bahraini government at the highest levels that we expect them to exercise restraint," said Hillary, adding criticism of the actions of Bahrain's security forces.

"We would remind them of their humanitarian obligation to keep medical facilities open and to facilitate the treatment of the injured, and to get back to the negotiating table," she added.

Leaders of the Shi’ite-led opposition in Bahrain have described the situation as "catastrophic" with hospitals closed off and Shi’ite villages surrounded.

Asked whether Washington was embarrassed by developments in a key ally, Hillary said Defence Secretary Robert Gates had delivered a "very strong message to the Bahraini government" when he visited Manama last week.

"So we have been very clear about that and we are going to continue to stress what we think is in the best interests of not only Bahrain and of the people of Bahrain but of the entire region," she said.

Bureau Report


First Published: Thursday, March 17, 2011, 11:23


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