GCC troops arrive in Bahrain to maintain order (Lead)

March 14th, 2011 - 9:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Manama, March 14 (IANS) Forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) arrived in Bahrain Monday to help authorities restore order after violent clashes erupted between protesters and security forces over the weekend.

The GCC forces are expected to protect strategic facilities, such as oil, electricity and water installations, as also financial and banking facilities, Xinhua quoted Al-Arabiya TV as reporting.

The arrival of GCC forces follows a clash Sunday between the Bahraini police and a number of Shiite protesters in one of the most violent confrontations since troops killed seven protesters last month.

The protesters Monday continued with their demand for the resignation of the entire cabinet, blocking the main roads to the Financial Harbor business complex in Manama.

Hundreds of protesters also continue to hold a sit-in at Pearl Square in Manama, the focal point of the demonstrations that started Feb 14.

The six-member regional bloc of the GCC comprises Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.

Meanwhile, the US has strongly condemned the violence in Bahrain, as also in Yemen, urging the two governments to show restraint.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, in a statement said: “The United States strongly condemns the violence that has taken place in Yemen and Bahrain today. We urge the governments of these countries to show restraint and to respect the universal rights of their people.”

He also urged the Bahraini government to pursue “a peaceful and meaningful dialogue” with the opposition rather than “resorting to the use of force”.

“In particular, we urge our GCC partners to show restraint and respect the rights of the people of Bahrain, and to act in a way that supports dialogue instead of undermining it,” Xinhua quoted the spokesman as adding.

In London, the British Foreign Office said it had reports that the Saudi National Guard was poised to enter Bahrain, prompting it to warn all British tourists in Bahrain to remain indoors, DPA reported.

According to the Bahrain News Agency, a number of parliamentarians called on Bahrain’s king Monday to impose martial law in the wake of the protests in the country.

The parliamentary bloc asked for three months of martial law, which would include an army presence on the streets and a curfew.

There are growing fears in Bahrain that anti-government protests for constitutional reforms and greater rights has shifted into a sectarian conflict, with the country’s Shiite majority clashing with the ruling Sunni minority.

There are also concerns among neighbouring countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which both have small, but significant Shiite populations, that Shiite-led Iran is meddling in the affairs of Gulf countries.

GCC Secretary General Abdulrahman bin Hamad al-Atiya said the council rejected any foreign interference in the Gulf region’s internal affairs, adding that attempts to sow discord among citizens represents a dangerous encroachment on security and stability.

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