By Elizabeth Broomhall
UK had suspended weapon sales to Gulf state after violent crackdown on protesters
The King of Bahrain is visiting the UK in a bid to smooth
over tensions that emerged following the Gulf state’s crackdown on political
protests earlier this year, the BBC reported on Monday.
King Hamad Al-Khalifa will be holding his first talks with
British Prime Minister David Cameron since deadly clashes between protesters
and Bahraini security forces broke out in February.
The tiny island state was the target of international
criticism for imposing martial law during a violent crackdown on protests. The
UK criticised the response and suspended weapons sales to the Gulf kingdom
after tear gas and rubber bullets were used on demonstrators.
Relations between the UK and Bahrain were further strained after
the previous British Ambassador was denied access to ministers for criticising
the Gulf state’s behaviour, the BBC said.
A report last month found Bahraini police used excessive
force and “systemic” torture against protestors. At least 40 people died in the
unrest, while 2,000 were sacked from state jobs.
Bahrain has since rolled out a reform drive that it says is
aimed at protecting rights and freedoms while enforcing order. The Gulf
government has reportedly hired former US police chief John Timoney and ex-London
Metropolitan officer John Yates to oversee reform of its police force, and replaced
its head of state security.
A Foreign Office official quoted by the BBC said Britain is
now keen to help Bahrain in its move towards a democratic government.