Bahrain calm as US welcomes national dialogue move

June 1, 2011

Bahrain’s capital was bustling with life on Wednesday following the lifting of the emergency laws imposed 78 days ago in the middle of an unprecedented dramatic political turmoil.

King Faisal Highway, the seafront main artery in the Bahrain capital, was under the daily onslaught of the seemingly perpetual rush hour with cars entangled in a relentless, slow-moving traffic.

However, the armed patrols that stood for weeks near the foreign affairs ministry, the financially-sensitive Bahrain Financial Harbour and the area around the former Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Roundabout, popularly known as the Pearl Roundabout in reference to the pearl monument that once stood there, have left the highway and returned to their barracks.

The call by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa on Tuesday to start in early July a national dialogue that will determine the political shape of Bahrain in the near future seemed to have abated bitterness among the people and boosted a positive mood.

However, radicals from the two major sects seemed unable to distance themselves from weeks of social networking activism and used the Internet to talk about the need for demonstrations and rallies in various areas.

The army as it said on Tuesday that it was handing over the task of maintaining security to the Public Security and the National Guard after the emergency laws were lifted, warned that it would be ready to go back to the streets to impose public order.

In Washington, the US welcomed the call by King Hamad to start a national dialogue.

“We view it as a positive step,” Mark C. Toner, the deputy State Department spokesman, said. “Bahrain needs to take positive steps to address the legitimate aspirations of the people, and this would be a step in that direction,” he told reporters at the daily press briefing.

Toner rejected claims that Ludovic Hood, a political officer at the US embassy in Manama, was recalled following a spate of threats and allegations targeting him and his wife.

“He had just completed his tour in Manama and returned to Washington. He’s taken up a position here within the State Department. So he wasn’t recalled in his posting,” he said.

In Riffa, the National Safety Court of First Instance said on Wednesday morning that it would issue its verdict in the case of the 21 people being tried on charges of working to undermine security in the country and intelligence with foreign countries on June 22.

The ruling by the special court, made up of one military and two civilian judges, will not be final and could be challenged at the National Safety Court of Appeals and eventually at the Cassation Court.

The list of defendants includes Ebrahim Shareef, the head of the National Democratic Action Society, Waad, Hassan Mushaima, the head of Haq, a group that splintered in 2005 from Al Wefaq, Abdul Wahab Husain, Abdul Jalil Al Singees and Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja. Seven of the 21 defendants are being tried in absentia.

In an interview with the London-based Asharq Al Awsat, Marshal Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, the Commander of the Bahrain Defense Force, said that the units from the Peninsula Shield, the military arm of the GCC that entered Bahrain upon a request from Bahrain in March, would remain in the kingdom.

“The forces will be in Bahrain until there is no need for their presence,” he told the daily. “Their movement will be gradual. Some of the members will remain in Bahrain, while others will go elsewhere. However, the presence, numbers and increase of the forces will be based on the circumstances,” he said.



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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