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Thu 26 Sep 2013 03:08 PM

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Bahrain stung by Obama comment on tensions

Gulf kingdom voices disappointment after US President compares it to Syria and Iraq

Bahrain stung by Obama comment on tensions
US President Barack Obama.

Bahrain voiced disappointment with President Barack Obama's description of the kingdom as beset by sectarian tension, arguing its problem was with "terrorists" who fomented division.

Bahrain has been rocked by almost daily clashes by members of the Shi'ite Muslim majority since February 2011, when it quelled a Shi'ite-led uprising demanding the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty give up power.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama mentioned "efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Bahrain and Syria".

The reference prompted Bahrain's ambassador to the United States, Houda Nonoo, to say on a website described as her official blog that she was "disappointed to hear him compare the situation in Bahrain to that of the current situation in Iraq and the unfolding tragedies in Syria".

Bahrain was committed to making the country a "better place for all its citizens", Nonoo wrote, while acknowledging that a reform programme was not yet complete.

"Making such a false equivalence only serves to obfuscate this important work," she wrote.

On Thursday, Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, said the kingdom fostered a culture of tolerance between its various communities.

His statement "clarified that what is occurring in Bahrain today is a concerted effort by terrorist extremist groups to target security personnel and expatriates with the intent of spreading fear and division within Bahrain's society, as well as targeting Bahrain's national economy and development".

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdallah al-Khalifa said Bahrain had "never witnessed at any time sectarian tensions" in a statement on the state news agency late on Wednesday.

Sheikh Rashid, who made no mention of Obama's speech, said violence was not carried out for sectarian motives but confronting 'terrorist acts' were among the state's main duties.

Shi'ites in Bahrain have long complained of entrenched discrimination in areas such as employment and public services, despite denials of the Sunni-led government.

The relationship between Bahrain and the United States has seen strains in the past. Bahrain provides a Gulf base for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, but has also been criticised over its record for human rights.

Earlier this year, a US State Department report said the government had failed to implement the most important recommendations made in an independent inquiry that looked at how Bahrain had handled the 2011 unrest.

The State Department report was rejected by the government and Bahraini lawmakers urged the government to stop the US ambassador in Bahrain from "interfering in domestic affairs".

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Bill 7 years ago

I understand how the Bahrain government must feel when a respected ally gets it wrong. Cheer up, nearly half of the US citizens recognize Obama for what he is: one who takes from the producers and gives to the non-producers, with socialistic goals, and who wouldn't mind if all Americans were high on pot all day long, and doesn't have a clue on how to balance a budget.
The point is that there will be a change soon so don't get used to the Obama way of doing things.

Saeed 7 years ago

Mr President Obama is absolutely right and what he said is 100%
justified and it is fact that Bahrain,s tiny ruling government is imposing their power on the Majority of this small island in the Persian Gulf , We are in 21 ST century and the days of this kind of Tyrone are over , Mr Obama is The president of free world and
the Greatest country on the face of earth , you can not be exempted from this rule , 21 st Century does not need king from tribes , give the power to the people who deserve that or you will lose it , GOD BLESS OBAMA AND UNITED STATE OF AMERICA

H 7 years ago

This is a reply to Saeed, right in what way???? How can he compare Bahrain with Iraq and Syria????? He has no clue what he's saying.

Oldtimer 7 years ago

Hold a referendum to find out what the majority of Bahrani citizens want! If this unrest is fomented by a small section of extremist elements, we will know for sure; after that appropriate action to deal with them can be taken. If, on the other hand, the majority does indeed feel discriminated against, then the world will know and the UN can then discuss this issue.

Billy 7 years ago

Saeed, Obama may have a point and he certainly has a right to express his views but at a time when the reputation of the USA in the Middle East needs to be drastically improved it was certainly unwise and highly undiplomatic for him to include Bahrain as he did. Furthermore, it is unclear what he has gained by doing so. He needs all the allies he can get in the Arab world and Bahrain has been a key supporter of the USA over the years so such a public slap in the face is unwise.

Ahmed 7 years ago

The fact remains that what's happening in Bahrain is not an uprising of the oppressed Shiite against Sunni's oppression. Iran is behind all this. Iran still considers Bahrain as one of its remote region that should be returned to motherland Iran. Ask any ayatollah in Iran and he will confirm this.
Iran is behind the unrest in the Eastern Province of KSA, Yemen, Pakistan and Kuwait as it was behind what happened to Iraq. Iran will not rest until it has converted all the Muslim world to their brand of Islam; the so called Welayat Al Faqih invented by Khomini.