[QODLink]
Americas
Bahrain crown prince visits US
Officials reaffirm the strong US commitment to Bahrain and welcomes the national dialogue on reform scheduled for July.
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2011 22:45
Bahrain has long been a key US ally in the Gulf region, and hosts the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet [AFP]

Barack Obama, the US president, has met the crown prince of Bahrain, as Washington backed the Sunni royal family's national dialogue to ease the political crisis in the Shia majority kingdom.

Obama dropped by a meeting between Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa and Tom Donilon, US national security adviser, on Tuesday, in a White House protocol mechanism used to allow the president to meet lower level officials.

Officials said Obama reaffirmed the strong US commitment to Bahrain and welcomed King Hamad's plan to end a "state of national safety" and the announcement that the national dialogue on reform would begin in July.

"He [Obama] also expressed strong support for the crown prince's ongoing efforts to initiate the national dialogue and said that both the opposition and the government must compromise to forge a just future for all Bahrainis," a White House statement said.

"To create the conditions for a successful dialogue, the president emphasised the importance of following through on the government's commitment to ensuring that those responsible for human rights abuses will be held accountable."

US fifth fleet

Obama's meeting with the crown prince came shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, said that Tehran had a plan for Bahrain and said the main problem was the presence there of the US Fifth Fleet.

Click for more coverage on Bahrain

Predominantly Shia Iran harshly condemned the crackdown in Bahrain, which in turn accused Tehran of meddling and fanning confessional unrest.

Earlier, the Bahraini crown prince, viewed by US officials as a key player in efforts to mitigate the political crisis, met Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, to discuss King Hamad's plan for a national dialogue.

"It is very significant to have these discussions to hear directly from the crown prince [about] the plan that Bahrain is pursuing," Clinton told reporters.

"Bahrain is a partner and a very important one to the United States and we are supportive of their national dialogue and the kinds of important work that the crown prince has been doing in his nation, and we look forward to it continuing."

'Committed to reform'

The crown prince said that it was a "great pleasure" to be in Washington during a "challenging time" for the kingdom.

"We are committed to reform in both political and economic spheres," he said.

Oil-rich Bahrain has long been a key US ally in the Gulf region, and hosts the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet.

But a brutal crackdown by security forces against the Shia protesters earlier this year put Washington in a tough spot.

The Obama administration also appeared surprised when a Gulf Co-operation Council force led by its ally Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered Bahrain in March, after a month of anti-government protests.

On June 1, Bahrain lifted the state of emergency it imposed in mid-March during the crackdown on pro-democracy Shia-led street demonstrations, which erupted a month earlier.

But Bahrain's royal family, drawn from its Sunni minority, has not called for a withdrawal of the Arab troops from neighbouring Gulf states who were brought in to help deal with the unrest.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.