F1 chief Ecclestone fears anti-government protesters may target Bahrain Grand Prix

February 16th, 2011 - 3:34 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Feb 16(ANI): Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone has expressed concern at the escalating anti-government protests in Bahrain, saying that he is worried protesters may use the opening Grand Prix of the season on March 13 to make a statement to the world.

Ecclestone said that he had been trying unsuccessfully to get hold of the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Salman ibn Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa.

“He is a bit busy, as you can imagine, so I don’t know yet exactly what is going on. The danger is obvious isn’t it? If these people wanted to make a fuss and get worldwide recognition it would be bloody easy, wouldn’t it?” the Telegraph quoted Ecclestone, as saying.

“You start making a problem on the start grid in Bahrain and it would get worldwide coverage,” he added.

When asked if there was a danger that the race could be called off, the 80 year-old said: “I have no idea. It’s hard to establish exactly what is going on. We’re watching events closely. We’ll rely on what they think the right thing to do is.”

Thousands of protesters are continuing to occupy a square in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, in an Egypt-style rebellion demanding political reform and greater freedom.

The opposition groups are not calling for the ruling Sunni monarchy to be ousted, but they want an end to its grip on key decisions and government posts.

Other demands, listed on a poster erected in the ‘Pearl Square’, included the release of all political prisoners, more jobs and housing, an elected Cabinet and the replacement of longtime Prime Minister, Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Bahrain is one of the most politically volatile nations in the Middle East’s wealthiest corner despite having one of the few elected parliaments and some of the most robust civil society groups.

The nation’s majority Shiites - about 70 per cent of the population of some 500,000 - have long complained of discrimination and being blackballed from important state jobs. (ANI)

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