Bahrain ejects US diplomat after he met with Shias

July 08, 2014 - 2:54:03 am

MANAMA: Bahrain yesterday declared a senior US official persona non grata and asked him to leave the kingdom immediately, state news agency BNA said, because he had “intervened flagrantly” in the country’s internal affairs.

BNA said that the foreign ministry had declared US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tomasz Malinowski, persona non grata after he “held meetings with a particular party (Shia groups) to the detriment of other interlocutors, thus discriminating between one people, contravening diplomatic norms and flouting normal interstate relations”.

The latest move highlights the sensitivity in relations between the strategic allies. Bahrain is a US ally in a volatile region and has long provided a base for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. But at the same it faces criticism over its record on human rights.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she had heard the reports but said a team of diplomats, including Malinowski, remained in Bahrain and were working with the government. 

“He’s in Bahrain. He remains in Bahrain. He’s in Bahrain today,” Psaki said at a news briefing in Washington.

“This visit is not complete yet. He’s still on the ground and we’re in close touch with government officials.”

Last year, Bahraini lawmakers urged the government to stop the US ambassador in Bahrain from interfering in domestic affairs and meeting government opponents.

Bahrain, which is ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa family, still faces frequent low-level unrest more than three years after authorities quelled Shia-led protests against the Sunni-led government.

A Bahraini policeman died on Saturday of wounds sustained in a bombing that the Interior Ministry said was a terrorist act.

Bahraini Shias, who make up the majority of the population, complain of political and economic marginalization, an accusation the government denies.Reuters