Bahrain king will attend British diamond jubilee lunch
WINDSOR, United Kingdom - Agence France-Presse
he Queen's Diamond Jubilee will take place June 2-5, 2012, and celebrations will include a festival of boats on the river Thames and the lighting of more than 2,000 beacons around the country during a four-day public holiday. AFP PHOTO/ANDREW COWIEThe king of Bahrain, whose regime has been accused of human rights abuses, will attend a lunch of foreign monarchs Friday to mark Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee, officials said.
King Hamad, whose Gulf island country is in a state of civil unrest following a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests, will sit down to lunch at Windsor Castle with nearly 50 foreign royal guests.
Buckingham Palace has said that the Foreign Office approved the invitation for King Hamad.
But it has drawn protests from veteran British lawmaker Dennis MacShane, a former Europe minister, who said the queen should not have to "dine with a despot".
The Bahraini regime "has done such terrible things to its own people since the Arab awakening a year ago", MacShane said. "For too long we have turned a blind eye to the repression carried out under the rule of royals in Arabia." The Foreign Office "should protect the British queen rather than expose her to having to dine with a despot", he added.
An AFP reporter in Windsor, which lies to the west of London, said there was no sign of demonstrations.
The lunch will be followed by a dinner for many of the foreign royals at Buckingham Palace, although King Hamad is not on the official list of those attending the evening event.
Human rights activists have promised to stage a protest outside Buckingham Palace before the dinner.
Britain has close links to Bahrain and has had to tread carefully in diplomatic terms since the unrest.
Prime Minister David Cameron held a meeting with King Hamad at his Downing Street residence in December when he urged him to implement reforms, and offered Britain's support.
In April 2011, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa turned down an invitation to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine after a public outcry in Britain.
Amnesty International says around 60 people have been killed in Bahrain since the anti-regime protests first erupted in February last year.