Bahrain committee investigates 'planned' riots

Friday, January 3, 2003

ABU DHABI Bahrain's newly-elected parliament has appointed a committee to investigate New Year riots in Manama in which up to 2,000 young men attacked foreigners in the entertainment district of the capital.

Officials said the riots were planned and those accused of helping organize them include Saudi nationals. Officials said 45 people were arrested and four of them have been released.

"What happened was deliberately aimed at causing chaos and harm to the security and stability which the country enjoys," Bahraini Interior Minister Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa said on Thursday. "They were aiming to corrupt and distort the historic achievements of the kingdom."

The panel will also oversee the kingdom's military and defense establishment, Middle East Newsline reported.

Parliamentarians elected Ahmed Bahzad as chairman of the new Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Economy Committee. The panel is meant to oversee such bodies as the military, Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry. The committee will also have a vice chairman. He was identified as Mohammed Al Abbas.

Arab diplomatic sources said they do not expect the new parliamentary committee to have much influence on Bahrain's defense policy, including the significant U.S. military presence. The sources said defense and military issues will remain the exclusive domain of King Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabber Al Thani.

Members of the Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Economy Committee were not elected. Instead, they were appointed by a panel that consisted of the speaker of parliament, his two deputies and the general secretary.

Members of five other committees were also appointed by the panel. Last year, Bahrain elected its first parliament in nearly 30 years. Many of the deputies have appeared uncertain over the powers and procedures of the institution.

The 40-member parliament is composed entirely of males. Islamic fundamentalist movements dominate the body.

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