Bahrain reiterates commitment to dialogue, but security tops priorities

March 23, 2011

Bahrain’s foreign minister has reiterated his country’s commitment to dialogue and consultations.

However, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said that the top priority in the current situation is restoring stability and security and reinforcing unity.

“There is no doubt that continued political consultations are the way forward,” he said in Cairo,” Shaikh Khalid told reporters following talks with Arab League chief Amr Mussa in Cairo. “The situation has now evolved towards calm and we will continue on this path.”

The call for a national open dialogue to take Bahrain out of its crisis was issued by Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa more than one month ago, but the initiative reached an impasse after the legal opposition parties refused to take it without specific conditions while radical formations rejected it outright.

A month of protests that culminated in blocking Manama’s main highway and major financial centre ended when Bahraini troops evicted the protesters from the Pearl Roundabout, the epicenter of protests, and the adjacent avenue and imposed an evening exclusion zone, after units from the Peninsula Shield, the military arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) entered Bahrain. The forces were joined on Monday by navy units from Kuwait.

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Union on Tuesday said it ended a call for a general strike amid concerns about effects on the private sector. Several shops remained closed this week and many employees did not report to work despite calls from the civil service bureau overseeing the public sector.

In Isa Town and Hamad Town, people agreed to form committees of Sunni and Shiite citizens to help overcome differences and heal the deep wounds that resulted from the month-long antagonism between the two sects.

No official list of the people who were killed during the protests has been released, but Asian embassies say that at least four foreigners from Pakistan and Bangladesh lost their lives. One Indian was killed after he was caught in crossfire while a Bangladeshi muezzin is in critical condition after attackers cut his tongue off.

As the situation on the ground edged towards normalcy, Iran and Lebanon have come under Bahrain’s spotlight following fiery statements by Iranian leaders and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah that Bahrain and the GCC regarded as blatant interference in Manama’s domestic affairs.

Manama and Tehran exchanged the expulsion of senior diplomats after each country recalled its ambassador for consultation.

A move by Iran to report Bahrain to international organization for allegedly using excessive force against protesters was countered by Manama dispatching letters to complain about Tehran’s interference in its internal affairs.

On Sunday, Manama condemned “the lies and allegations by Hassan Nasrallah on the current developments in Bahrain and which served foreign goals and schemes.”

“The government of Lebanon assumes the repercussions of the false declarations and allegations and which will most certainly affect bilateral relations,” the ministry said.

Al Ayam, a Bahraini daily, on Tuesday said that five Lebanese have been arrested in Manama on suspicion of “links with foreign parties” and that the authorities searched the restaurant where they worked and their homes.

Gulf Air, the national airline, said on its website that it had suspended flights to Beirut for the next three days.

“Gulf Air regrets to announce the temporary suspension of flights to and from Beirut from 23 to 25 March,” the company said on its website. “The decision has been taken following the on-going situation in the region and the consequent reduction in passenger demand.”

In Beirut, Caretaker Premier Saad Hariri criticized Nasrallah for claiming to be “the spiritual leader of revolutions in the Arab world.”

“Hizbullah’s leadership is seeking to make changes in the Arab world via the Iranian way and wants the Lebanese to agree on turning their country into an arena that exports revolutions,” Hariri told Al Mustaqbal and Beirut families who visited him at Center House on Monday night, Naharnet reported. “This harms the interest of the Lebanese and their historic relations with the Arabs,” Hariri said.

Al Liwa newspaper said that Bahraini authorities decided not to grant visas to Lebanese nationals.

In Kuwait City, MP Waleed Al Tabtabai said that he was planning to grill the prime minister following the publication in Al Dar, a local daily, of articles deemed offensive to Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.

Al Dar daily came under fire on Monday from Kuwait’s information ministry following the publication of articles that cast doubts on the presence of units from the Saudi Arabia-based Peninsula Shield in Bahrain to help the authorities enhance the security situation.

Another controversy enveloped the fate of a Kuwaiti Manama-bound medical aid convoy that was reportedly banned from crossing into Bahrain. No official statement was issued by either country on the issue.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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