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Monday, July 11, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

U.S. said pressuring Bahrain on reform: Threatens pullout of Navy's Fifth Fleet

ABU DHABI — The United States is said to have warned it will withdraw its military presence from Bahrain.
  • Related Story: Sources: Fifth Fleet abandons base in Bahrain; Navy denies evacuation underway March 16

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    A senior Bahraini cleric linked to the Sunni kingdom said Washington was threatening to pull out the U.S. Navy from Manama. The cleric, National Unity Assembly president Abdul Latif Al Mahmoud, urged Bahrain to allow the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet to leave rather than cave in to pressure from Washington for rapid reform.

    "Let these troops and facilities leave," Al Mahmoud said. "We are ready to starve to death for the sake of our dignity and honor."

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    Neither the governments in Manama or Washington confirmed the assertion of Al Mahoud, regarded as a supporter of King Hamad. The Fifth Fleet has been deployed in Bahrain for more than 40 years and represents the hub of U.S. Navy operations in the Gulf.

    "If the Bahraini regime is weak and unable to stop U.S. pressure, then it has to admit it," Al Mahoud said in a sermon on July 8.

    The cleric said the National Unity Assembly was preparing to demonstrate in front of the U.S. embassy in Manama to protest Washington's pressure on Bahrain. Al Mahmoud has been one of several leading royalists to oppose what they termed U.S. pressure on the Gulf Cooperation Council state.

    In July, the Bahraini regime was said to have warned a journalist from the Al Watan daily to stop writing against the United States. NUA expressed concern over what it said was U.S. pressure to muzzle the journalist, identified as Yusef Al Bin Khalil. The U.S. embassy has denied any intervention.

    "The United States has a long and distinguished history of defending the rights of individuals around the world to express their opinions, even when those opinions are critical of the United States or its policies," the U.S. embassy said.

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