Washington to resume arms sales to Bahrain
WASHINGTON / MANAMA - Agence France-PresseThe United States said May 11 it was partially resuming sales of military supplies to Gulf Arab ally Bahrain after having frozen most shipments last year amid a bloody crackdown on protests.
But in a nod to concerns over ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said “the items that we are releasing are not used for crowd control.” Tear gas and stun grenades were excluded from the sales, according to U.S. officials.
A senior U.S. administration official told reporters on condition of anonymity that a frigate and harbor security boats as well as upgraded F-16 engines would be transferred to Bahrain as well as other items he declined to disclose. The equipment and services were released “for the purpose of helping Bahrain maintain its external defense capabilities,” Nuland said in a statement that did not describe the items.
She urged Bahrain to tackle “serious unresolved human rights issues” and warned the “country is becoming increasingly polarized.” “We are concerned about excessive use of force and tear gas by police,” Nuland said. Amnesty International says 60 people have been killed in Bahrain since the uprising began in mid-February 2011.
Meanwhile, Bahraini security forces fires tear gas and birdshot on May 12 to disperse protests staged in Shiite villages in solidarity with jailed opposition activists, witnesses said. Dozens took to the streets in several villages following calls by the February 14 Coalition, a youth group that works mainly on cyber social networks with no public leaders.