Senior US diplomat `unwelcome`, should leave: Bahrain

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 01:36

Manama: Bahrain on Monday said that US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tom Malinowski, is "unwelcome" in the kingdom and should leave immediately.

The foreign ministry accused Malinowski of "meddling in Bahrain`s internal affairs" and said he had met "with a particular party to the detriment of other interlocutors", in a statement published by the official BNA state news agency.

It was an apparent reference to the Shiite-led opposition in Sunni-ruled Bahrain.

The ministry "has confirmed that US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski, is unwelcome and should immediately leave the country, due to his interference in its internal affairs," the statement said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Malinowski is in Bahrain -- home base of the US Fifth Fleet -- and "he remains in Bahrain."

"He is on a visit to reaffirm and strengthen our bilateral ties and to support his royal majesty King Hamad`s reform and reconciliation efforts at an important time, particularly given events elsewhere in the region," she said.

Psaki added: "Our officials are in close touch with Bahraini officials on the ground."

Malinowski met leaders of the opposition, including cleric Ali Salman, the head of the main Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, which is an authorised political association, according to the group.

Al-Wefaq posted a picture of the meeting on its official Twitter account, showing Salman seated next to Malinowski and two other men with a flag of Al-Wefaq and a flag of Bahrain in the background.

Malinowski was the Washington Director for Human Rights Watch, a vocal critic of Manama`s crackdown on protests, until April when he became assistant secretary of state.

Shiite-led protests erupted in Bahrain in February 2011, taking their cue from uprisings elsewhere in the region and demanding democratic reforms in the absolute monarchy.

Security forces boosted by Saudi-led troops ended the protests a month later, but smaller demonstrations frequently take place in Shiite villages, triggering clashes with police.
The United States has been repeatedly criticised by rights group for not taking a strong stance on Bahrain`s crackdown on protests.

The opposition has campaigned for the establishment of a genuine constitutional monarchy in Bahrain.
The king launched a national dialogue to end the political impasse in the tiny kingdom.

But after the opposition took part in two rounds of the dialogue, it quit the negotiations complaining that the authorities were not prepared to make enough concessions.

The statement carried by BNA did not say who Malinowski met but stressed that his meetings were in contradiction with "diplomatic norms and flouted normal interstate relations."

"Such activities are contrary to diplomatic norms and relations between states," it said.

The foreign ministry said, however, that relations between Manama and Washington will not be affected.

"Bahrain reaffirms its strong and solid relations with the United States of America, and underlines that the progress and development of these ties should not be affected by such unfortunate acts," it said.

Bahrain, a strategic archipelago just across the Gulf from Iran, is the home base of the US Fifth Fleet and Washington is a long-standing ally of the ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty.

AFP

First Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 01:36

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