US urges restraint by Gulf nations in Bahrain

Pentagon says US was not warned that 1,000 Saudi troops would deploy to Bahrain; State Dept. tells US citizens to avoid ongoing unrest.

Saudi troops Bahrain 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Saudi troops Bahrain 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - The United States urged Saudi Arabia on Monday to show restraint after it sent troops to neighboring Bahrain in a move some analysts said showed the limits of Washington's influence in the region.
The deployment of 1,000 Saudi troops, at the request of Bahrain's Sunni royal family, came two days after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the island kingdom and pressed its rulers to implement political reforms to defuse tensions with the Shi'ite Muslim majority.
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The Pentagon said neither Gates nor Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who also recently visited Bahrain, had been given any indication that Saudi or other forces from the region would deploy to Bahrain.
The United States, which fears Shi'ite Iran could try to exploit the instability in Bahrain, was cautious in its response to the troop deployment, neither criticizing nor explicitly welcoming it.
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"This is not an invasion of a country," White House spokesman Jay Carney said after Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf governments sent troops and police to the tiny kingdom hit by spreading Shi'ite unrest.
Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Pentagon had "communicated to all parties our concern regarding actions that could be provocative or inflame sectarian tensions."
The State Department sought to spread responsibility between the government of Bahrain and protesters. "Just as Bahrain gov't must show restraint and respect universal rights, members of opposition also must refrain from instigating violence," the State Department said in a message on Twitter late on Monday.
The department also urged US citizens to defer travel to Bahrain and suggested Americans there should leave due to the ongoing unrest. It also said in a statement that family members of US embassy staff were authorized to leave voluntarily.
It said that while protests have not been directed toward Westerners, US citizens should "avoid all demonstrations, as even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse."
Also on Tuesday,  Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the presence of foreign troops in Bahrain is "unacceptable."
"The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain's internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue," Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference.