Clinton: Bahrain, Gulf allies, 'on the wrong track'

US makes rare criticism of Bahrain; riot police clear protest camp at Pearl roundabout; 3 police, 3 protesters killed.

By REUTERS
March 16, 2011 18:32
2 minute read.
Hillary Clinton

Clinton 58 reuters. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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MANAMA - Bahraini forces, backed by troops sent by neighboring Saudi Arabia, drove protesters from the streets using tear gas, tanks and helicopters on Wednesday, prompting rare criticism from their US allies.

Up to six people were killed in the violence which fueled regional confrontation between Sunni Gulf Arab states and non-Arab Shi'ite Iran.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a television interview on Wednesday Bahrain and its allies who have sent troops to help it put down anti-government demonstrations are on the wrong track.

"We find what's happening in Bahrain alarming. We think that there is no security answer to the aspirations and demands of the demonstrators," Clinton told CBS in an interview, urging Bahrain to negotiate a political agreement with demonstrators.

"We have also made that very clear to our Gulf partners who are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, four of whose members have sent troops to support the Bahraini government. They are on the wrong track," Clinton added according to a US pool reporter who attended the interview.

The US State Department also released a message on twitter, saying "We object to excessive force and violence against demonstrators; we raised our concerns directly today to Bahrain."



"We continue to believe the solution is credible political reform, not security crackdowns that threaten to exacerbate the situation," the State Department said in additional Twitter messages, originally released in Arabic.

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turmoil in the Middle East

A member of parliament from the largest Shi'ite Muslim opposition group denounced the government assault as a declaration of war on the Shi'ite community.

"This is war of annihilation. This does not happen even in wars and this is not acceptable," Abdel Jalil Khalil, the head of Wefaq's 18-member parliament bloc, said.

A protest called by the youth movement, which had been leading protests at the Pearl roundabout, failed to materialize after the military banned all marches and gatherings and imposed a curfew from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. across a large swathe of Manama.

Gulf Arab ruling families are Sunni and analysts say the intervention of their forces in Bahrain might provoke a response from Iran, which supports Shi'ite groups in Iraq and Lebanon.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Bahrain's crackdown was "unjustifiable and irreparable".

"Today, we witness the degree of pressure imposed on the majority of people in Bahrain," he said according to state TV.

"What has happened is bad, unjustifiable and irreparable."

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