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Mary Robinson’s interview with “AFP” – Q1- the Purpose of the visit? – – A1 – The main purpose of the visit is to re-enforce my offices priority to give technical support and encouragement for human rights in Arab states. My visit to the reign Attended to strongly underlin ment ..(..) I came from Egypt and I’m leaving to Lebanon and I leave 2 human rights officers in the economic commission (Iskwa). I acknowledge progress here in Bahrain and I also been concerned about some aspects obviously I have been looking for more progress. I have been concerned about press reports have been to bland..(..) saying good things.. I’ve been raising quit serious issues and concerns and I have just have good meeting with Ingo’s whom they told me about other concerns which I’m going to discus with his majesty. Bahrain is moving to the right direction, but there are also concerns for example, the manner of adoptment of tw chambers of the council have raised quick worries about the democratic ..(..) because a democratically elected council side by side with the selected council which can not be have …( ..) I want to speck to his majesty about a process of selection for the upper chamber which well be given more democratic legitimacy. “..i have acknowledged the significant progress for example the abolishing of security lows and the national charter..(..) I expressed concerns about the manner ad mention about the constitution, but I see that can be improved by having a process of selection by transparency. It have been a constructive process because the points that I’m making has been I think listened to very carefully. By those who I’ve met”. Q2 – What else did you discus with officials here? Did you ask Bahrain government to singe some conventions related to human rights? A 2- I’ve asked to begin a process which they have agree to do. The foreign minister confirm this morning to begin a process leading to ratification of the “international convent for political and civil rights” and the “international convent of economic, social and culture rights”. Obviously I note the import antsy of low and press freedom and the low of associations leading ultimately to the establishment of political parties here. and the import antsy of working in a low for family states which well give legal bases to the position of women more strongly. “this morning. Ingo’s raised the discrimination in employment in public sector , unemployment. And the need to address the wrongs of the past to have maybe a “truth and reconciliation and compensation.”. Q 3- in the last 48 hours the situation between Israelis and Palestinians went in a new dramatic circle of violence how do you see this situation?. A3 ­ I’ve been deeply concern about the wore sting situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel and I issued a statement in Cairo, expressing my deep concern about military occupations of the refuge camps and the death it has accord and serious injuries to a large number of Palestinians, equally I deeply dismayed at the suicide attack in Jerusalem killing 9 civilians as well as the sup- rater of the suicide..(..) this is totally unjustified and it does not serve just course. ..(..) I think it damages the course that it was seek to serve. “ I noted this morning also further killing of an Israeli solders, it is so urgent to get a political frame work that gives some hope in order to break this terrible cycle of violence.

“but I can’t state strongly enough how much it is both of international responsibility and the responsibility of the Israelis and the Palestinian authority to provide that political ( play forwarded??? ).

February 2002

Interview with Dr. Mansoor Al-Jamri

Interviewer: Ms. Zahra Al-Shehabi, Editor of  “Al-Hekma” newsletter (published by the youths of Dar Al-Hekma Society, London, UK) 

Question 1. When did you first move to the UK and what was the purpose for your migration initially?

Answer: I traveled to the UK on 24  March 1979. It was a really cold day and I was wearing light cloths and suffered the breezing weather. I was one of six or eight students who won scholarships to study in the UK. The Bahraini Embassy staff were waiting for us at Heathrow Airport to take us to the designated hotel before distributing us to several towns and cities around the UK to study English before joining college in September of that year (1979). My brother Mohammed Jamil was also waiting for me at the airport as he had already been in the UK since 1977.

Soon after we knew the hotel, my brother took me to the Muslim Youth Association (MYA) to meet with other Bahrainis. When I arrived there, the MYA attendants were about to eat some good Bahraini food and I felt at home from day one. My brother introduced me to other people and I still remember the faces and most of the welcoming statements.

 Question 2. How long were you distanced from Bahrain?

Answer: Ah… I returned to Bahrain in the summer 1980 for the first time. Soon after my arrival, I was summoned by the Intelligence Department for interrogation. I was interrogated for 2 days and the focus of my interrogation was my relationship with your father “Saeed Al-Shehabi”: When did I meet with him, where, and what did we talk about??

After that ordeal, I returned to the UK to inform Saeed what happened and about the Englishman and the Pakistani (two nasty officers) who interrogated me in Bahrain…. 

In 1982 I returned to visit my family in Bahrain and my passport was confiscated for one year, thus forcing me to lose one year of my university studies. When I managed to return to the UK in 1983, I decided to stay in there up until 1987. When I returned to perform Hajj in this year, I was never able to secure work in Bahrain, plus the fact that I was under threat of arrest at anytime. Back to Britain and never to return until June 2001.

I could not return after 1987 as I started receiving reports that my name is on the black list, that UK-based students who had been detained for interrogation were questioned about their relationship with me. I knew that if I ever returned to Bahrain I would be taken prisoner!

Question 3. How did it feel being exiled from your country of birth?

Answer: Well.. I had to accommodate a new style of life. My first priority was to secure an honourable living, and thanks only to God, I managed to get a very nice type of work that matched exactly my postgraduate education (mechanical engineering design). I then had one focus in my life: As long as I served my people in Bahrain in any way or form, I would be happy. My association with like-minded people was pivotal in helping me to serve my nation.

Question 4. As you were the spokesperson for the Bahrain Freedom Movement (BFM), what do you feel are the success of the BFM?

Answer: The success of the reform movement in Bahrain is the result of all the people who contributed willingly for the sake of Allah and their nation and the BFM was one essential component of that success. But all must be referred to Allah and the many unknown soldiers of the nation whose names we may or may not know. However, I believe the main contributions of the BFM were as follows:

a. Bahrainisation of the political agenda. In previous years, the political agenda was mainly dictated by outside influences. The BFM proudly Bahranised the agenda and led a successful campaign for convincing its supporters and friends.

b. Rationalization of the political objectives. Some of the political movements in Bahrain were not rational in defining their objectives. The BFM defined and strove for achievable targets that were acceptable Islamically, constitutionally and internationally.

Question 5. You seemed to have readily given up your life in the UK, what does a future in Bahrain hold for you? What are your future plans?

Answer: Once the return to Bahrain was made possible after the abolishing of the State Security Law on 18 Feb 2001, I could never hold myself from returning to Bahrain. I was counting the days to return and each day was like year. I must admit that I stayed more than 20 years in the UK but never felt the urge and love to return home as I did in the last four months of my stay in Britain. Those four months were like forty years in waiting.

Question 6. What do you think the future of Bahrain is?

Answer: We all have to work for a better life in Bahrain. Inshallah, I will be able to play a positive role and we have to wait and see.

Question 7. You have been criticized for having controversial views about Islam and Shiasm, what are your comments on that?

Answer: I believe that Islam is compatible with human rights and democracy and that all those views that claim otherwise can not hold water. I am also critical of some practices that have crept inside the Shia community as a result of the oppression they had suffered. However, my love to my religion and my community will always guide me to the best inshallah.

Question 8. What advice can you give students studying in the UK with regards to student activities and making the Bahrain Students Union (BSU) successful?

Answer: Stick to each other. Remember that Bahrain had been under a State of Emergency since December 1956 and this is the first time that we all breathe fresh air. Do not think and act as if you were still under emergency laws. Strengthen your union and study hard to serve yourself and your community.

Bahrain moves to free telecommunications sector

MANAMA, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Bahrain has signed an agreement with a British firm to prepare a study on the possibility of opening up the kingdom’s telecommunications sector to competition, local media said on Thursday.Transport Minister Sheikh Ali bin Khalifa al-Khalifa signed the deal with British firm Intercai Mondiale, a strategic consulting firm, to conduct the study.U.S. legal consultants White & Case will provide legal and logistic services for the study, which is scheduled to be completed in July. No further details were immediately available.Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) is currently the sole provider of telecommunication services in the Gulf’s main financial and banking hub.Batelco is 39 percent owned by the Bahraini government and 20 percent by Cable and Wireless of Britain. The rest is traded on the Bahrain Stock Exchange.

UN human rights chief to visit BahrainCAIRO, Egypt (AP) 27 Feb 2002 — U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, starting a tour of Middle Eastern and Islamic nations to discuss local human rights issues.Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters at Cairo airport that she plans to express to Egyptian officials her concern over the emergency law that allows the trial of civilians before military and state security courts.The law was declared shortly after Muslim militants assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981. It gives security forces sweeping powers to curb political and civil rights and allows civilians to be tried in military courts.

Robinson also plans to visit Bahrain, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan, her spokesman Jose Diaz said in Geneva on Tuesday

Bahrain-politics schedBahraini opposition turns against king’s “imposed” reformsBy Habib TrabelsiDUBAI, Feb 25 (AFP) – Bahrain’s opposition is voicing disappointment at the constitutional reforms “imposed” by the king, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, whom it accuses of reneging on his promises of democracy.The sharpest criticism came from the London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement (BFM), one of whose members Monday slammed what he called “a constitutional putsch that is more alarming than the 1975 dissolution of parliament.”The hopes generated by plans for political reform “have been dashed,” Osama al-Salman told AFP, adding that the BFM “does not see the point” of the opposition’s participation in parliamentary elections due later this year.”We will spell out our position on this issue in the coming days,” Salman said.Sheikh Hamad bin Issa, who has now become King Hamad, announced earlier this month that legislative elections would be held on October 24 following a May 9 municipal vote.He set the date for elections to restore the parliament disbanded in 1975 on the first anniversary of the endorsement by referendum of a national charter for constitutional reforms, which also turned the emirate of Bahrain into a constitutional monarchy.But the decision under the amended constitution to give a proposed appointed chamber legislative powers alongside those of the elected parliament was seen by opposition groups as a letdown.”One step forward, two steps backward,” wrote the BFM shortly after the king’s announcement, vowing to “wage political war by peaceful means.””We offer condolences to our people on the burial of the 1973 constitution, and we pledge to carry on a peaceful struggle,” the opposition movement said two days later.The BFM on Friday accused King Hamad of reneging on his promises and denounced what it said was “an insult to democracy” which discredited the Manama authorities.According to the BFM, Sheikh Hamad promised during a meeting last year with Shiite Muslim opposition leaders that the elected parliament would have legislative powers while the appointed chamber would have only advisory functions.Also, the national charter would not supplant the 1973 constitution, under his pledge.This, the movement said, prompted top Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Abdul Amir al-Jamri to throw his weight behind the national charter.The plan was to reinstate the legislature elected in 1973, the main demand during sporadic troubles triggered by the mainly Shiite opposition from 1994 to 1999 that left at least 38 people dead.The Islamic National Accord Association (INAA), which groups former Islamist dissidents freed when Sheikh Hamad pardoned political prisoners a year ago, has complained that the mechanism adopted in introducing the reforms was not in keeping with the 1973 constitution.The changes “fell short of popular demands for which Bahrainis sacrificed themselves,” the group said, vowing to carry on “peaceful, public and legitimate political activity in order to realize the people’s aspirations.”Sheikh Jamri, whom the authorities had blamed for the 1990s disturbances, followed suit.”This (planned new) parliament is not what our people, Sunnis and Shiites alike, struggled for. This national charter is not the one for which we all voted,” he told the faithful in a sermon at a Manama mosque on Friday.

“We have reservations, and we will pursue our peaceful political struggle without resorting to any form of violence,” said the Shiite cleric, who wields considerable influence within Bahrain’s majority Shiite community.

Exiled Bahraini group criticises new reforms

LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) – An exiled Bahraini opposition group has warned reforms introduced this month pave the way for an absolute monarchy, raising the prospect of fresh tensions in the Gulf Arab state.
The London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement (BFM) said King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa had reneged on promises to limit the powers of an appointed upper house when he declared Bahrain a “constitutional kingdom” and set parliamentary elections for October.

“The political situation in Bahrain changed on 14 February, 2002. This is the day when the emir imposed a constitution in a way that had never been practised in the history of mankind,” BFM said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters on Thursday night.

King Hamad, who became emir upon the death of his father in 1999, announced political reforms last year aimed at transforming the island state into a kingdom and holding the first parliamentary elections in 27 years.
Bahrainis overwhelmingly supported the proposed reforms in the first referendum since the country’s independence from Britain in 1971.

BFM said King Hamad had assured prominent opposition figures at a meeting last year the Shura council, appointed by him, would have only consultative powers. But his amendments gave the Shura legislative powers on a par with the elected parliament

.BFM said he had promised the new constitution would be based on the 1973 constitution, which provided for a strong parliament with wide legislative powers.

It said the new constitution reduced voting rights “creating an absolute monarchy with non-democratic provisions covering all aspects of public life in Bahrain.”

The BFM statement said Bahraini intelligence also sought to intimidate opposition figures by telling about two dozen activists their names were on a list of 99 Bahrainis wanted by the United States.

“This wicked attempt at frightening the opposition was exposed as false and untrue when the news spread…and when the U.S. embassy denied the existence of a blacklist with 99 Bahrainis on it,” the statement said.

Five Islamic and liberal groups agreed earlier this week to set up a committee to study the new constitution.
Bahrain’s first elected parliament was dissolved in 1975, prompting unrest among the Gulf Arab state’s majority Shi’ite Muslims demanding political and economic reforms from the Sunni Muslim-led government.

Bahrain: Broken promises pave the way for an “absolute monarchy”

The political situation in Bahrain changed on 14 February 2002. This is the day when the Amir imposed a constitution in a way that had never been practiced in the history of mankind.

A year earlier, on 14 February 2001, the people of Bahrain voted on the National Action Charter that paved the way for two constitutional amendments. One relates to conversion of the name of Bahrain into a “kingdom” and the other relates to the creation of a bicameral parliament with a lower legislative council and an upper consultative council.

The opposition forces were opposed to the ambiguous wording of the Charter and hence a meeting was convened on 8 February 2001 between the Amir and four senior opposition figure (Sheikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri, Seyyed Abdulla Al Ghoreifi, Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain and Dr. Ali Al Oreibi). The session was direct and the opposition figures questioned two issues: whether the 1973 Constitution will be the governing criteria and whether the upper chamber will ever have legislative powers. The Amir replied “I give you my word as a gentleman that the 1973 Constitution will be the basis and that the upper house will only be for consultation”. The opposition figures requested that these affirmations be published in the media. And the Amir responded. He ordered the Justice Minister to publish a statement that appeared in the two daily newspapers (Akhbar Al Khalij and Al Ayyam) the next morning (9 February 2001) confirming that the 1973 Constitution will be the basis and that the upper chamber will be for consultation only.

In good faith, the opposition forces rallied behind the Amir. Soon after, the Amir appointed a secret committee for amending the constitution. This committee held all its sessions in secret, and not a single word of its proceedings was leaked to the media or to the Bahrain Bar Society. The committee compromised all the hated figures in the establishment including the Interior Minister.

Then on 2 February 2002 the Amir invited a small group of people and hinted to them that the amended constitution was ready. When one attendant asked to see the amended articles, his request was rejected. Several small hand-picked groups were invited in the next 10 days. The political farces sensed that something grave was to be committed in a very short time. But no had ever thought that the grave mistake will be the imposition of an entirely new constitution and the declaration of the kingdom on 14 February 2002 without any prior consultation with or reference to the people of Bahrain. Up until the last minute of the announcement made on 14 February, not a single citizen outside the secret committee knew what was going to be announced.

Then the bombshell landed on 14 February: the Amir declared himself a king and a unilaterally prepared constitution was directly issued in the Official Gazette and imposed on the nation without any reference to criteria set-out in the 1973 Constitution and without any respect to the National Action Charter or the affirmation published on the media on 9 February 2001.

The security forces were put on a high alert as from the beginning of February. And on 5 February 2002, the head of the intelligence service, Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, summoned about two dozens of senior opposition figures and told them that their names are part of 99 Bahrainis on a US blacklist and that if they traveled outside Bahrain they might be arrested by the Americans. This wicked attempt at frightening the opposition was exposed as false and untrue when the news spread everywhere and when the US Embassy denied the existence of a blacklist with 99 Bahrainis on it.

In the meantime, the Amir said to the handpicked groups of people he met that he has the signatures of top constitutional experts from around the world who endorsed the amended constitution. It later transpired that these so-called experts were a mixed bag of individuals who had nothing to lose from supporting a constitution that reduced the voting rights of the people of Bahrain from 74% in the 1973 Constitution to a mere 49%. They had nothing to lose from creating an absolute monarchy with non-democratic previsions covering all aspects of public life in Bahrain. The so-called experts (non of whom was ever available for questioning by the Bahrain Bar Society ) included Jean Paulsson (from France), Mohammed Ramzi Al Shaer (from Egypt), Mohammed Mirghani (from Egypt), Abdul Latif Al Manoni (from Morocco) and Dhaher Hikmat (from Jordan).

The Egyptian Mohammed Ramzi Al Shaer has a book in which he says that “any amendment to any constitution that lowers down the rights of the people is considered null and void”. However, he was so happy to lower the voting rights of the elected parliamentarians from 74% in the 1973 Constitution to 49% in the kingdom’s constitution. It also transpired that the French expert had no expertise in drafting any constitution. He was the judge used by the government during the Hague proceeding on Hawar islands (which Qatar disputed their Bahraini sovereignty).

The imposing of a constitution that robs the nation of its rights and that gives overriding powers for the monarch on all aspects of life is an insult to democracy. The monarch is now given legislative powers himself and he can intervene in the judiciary as well as process any discretionary decisions without any checking power. In fact, one of his first royal decrees was to declare all the decrees that were issued after the dissolution of the parliament in 1975 as laws. These decrees were never laws as they required the consent of the parliament before being passed as laws. The kingdom’s constitution has therefore reduced the significance of all elected bodies, past and present, and converted Bahrain into an “absolute monarchy” in all respects but the name.  

Bahrain Freedom Movement

21 February 2002

(Re-posted 21 Feb 2002: 200,000 US troops and air attacks from Turkey, Bahrain and Diego Garcia in a combined overt and covert campaign coordinated with proxy force)

America’s new war We should not back this Iraq attack The Guardian Saturday February 16, 2002 Still outraged by the enormity of the September 11 attacks, an implacable and headstrong United States now sees a war against Iraq as the next step in its war against terrorism. A decision to topple Saddam Hussein appears to have been taken by President Bush in late January, around the time that he told Americans in his State of the Union speech that he would not “wait on events” in his battle with the “axis of evil” comprising Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Whether Tony Blair was consulted over this secret decision, or whether he cautioned against it if he was consulted, are points that are not yet clear. What is clear, however, is that a war against Iraq cannot be justified as part of the war against terrorism as it has been portrayed by Mr Blair and his ministers since September 11. Let us just remind ourselves what kind of war Mr Blair signed us up for. As depicted by the prime minister, especially in his Brighton speech, it was to be a war conducted on the basis of evidence of involvement in the attack on America. It was to be proportionate. It was to be targeted. It would not involve overreaction. It would seek to avoid civilian casualties. It would be the action of a coalition. It was to embody what Mr Blair, at Brighton, called “the moral power of a world acting as a community”. Military action would only come if there was no prospect of a diplomatic solution. And even if it did come, military action would have to be buttressed by humanitarian and diplomatic efforts. It did not work out exactly as Mr Blair imagined it, of course. Such things never do. But it was not impossible, in the end, to recognise the war in Afghanistan in this context. This is a world away from the war that Mr Bush now proposes to wage against Iraq. There is absolutely no firm evidence linking Iraq to September 11. Saddam Hussein, indeed, has kept his head down since the attack on New York. But the Iraqi leader’s low profile is not deterring Mr Bush. Nor is anything else. Not the possibility of using diplomacy to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq for the first time in three years; this White House “will not take yes for an answer”, a source told our Washington correspondent. Not the threat of Iraqi civilian casualties. Not the humanitarian crisis that would ensue. Not the effect on the wider Arab world. Not the legacy for the Middle East if President Saddam tries to do in 2002 what he did in 1991 and fires his missiles at Israel.

For all of those reasons, and more, any attack by Mr Bush on Iraq would mark the end of the post-September 11 consensus. That Saddam’s regime is a vast problem – to put it mildly – for his own people, for the region, and for the international community, is not in dispute. “Regime change”, as Colin Powell puts it, could not be more welcome. But, as President Putin also said this week, such problems cannot be solved by one country alone. A fullscale attack of the kind now being contemplated – involving 200,000 US troops and air attacks from Turkey, Bahrain and Diego Garcia in a combined overt and covert campaign coordinated with proxy forces – could not avoid being a classic piece of American unilateralism. It would represent the triumph of the conservative US Republican agenda (and the Bush family agenda) over the international agenda. It would taint the legitimate sense of solidarity which so many feel for America since it was attacked. And it would be a massive mistake for the Blair government, in terms of its own domestic constituency, and in terms of Britain’s position in the Arab world and in Europe, to be cast once again as Mr Bush’s lone bag-carrier.

(Re-posted on 21 Feb 2002)

US targets Saddam Pentagon and CIA making plans for war against Iraq this year Julian Borger in Washington and Ewen MacAskill Guardian Thursday February 14, 2002 The Pentagon and the CIA have begun preparations for an assault on Iraq involving up to 200,000 US troops that is likely to be launched later this year with the aim of removing Saddam Hussein from power, US and diplomatic sources told the Guardian yesterday. President George Bush’s war cabinet, known as the “principals committee”, agreed at a pivotal meeting in late January that the policy of containment has failed and that active steps should be taken to topple the Iraqi leader. But, according to a US intelligence source familiar with CIA preparations, provisional plans for a parallel overt and covert war only landed on the president’s desk in the past few days. “I will reserve whatever options I have. I’ll keep them close to my vest. Saddam Hussein needs to understand that I’m serious about defending our country,” Mr Bush said yesterday. Since the principals committee decision, Colin Powell, the secretary of state and the dove of the administration, has pointedly added his voice to the calls for a “regime change”. “We are looking at a variety of options that would bring that about,” he told the Senate budget committee. The blueprint for a campaign against Iraq has evolved from a contingency plan drawn up by the joint chiefs of staff that envisaged the use of a 200,000-strong US force, the bulk of which would invade from Kuwait. The final version is likely to involve a lighter, more mobile force, which relies more on covert and special forces, in the light of the Afghan experience. A working document has been forwarded to the White House, but it is far from definitive. The generals remain deeply uneasy about the threat of Iraqi chemical and biological retaliation against US troop concentrations or against Israel in the event of a conflict. Central command has already set up forward headquarters in the Gulf from which each of the component services will be able to coordinate the war. The air force headquarters (Afcent) is at the Prince Sultan air base in Saudi Arabia. The army headquarters (Arcent) is in Kuwait, while the navy (Navcent) is in Bahrain. Central command’s marine component (Marcent) is also expected to move to Bahrain in the next few days, weeks after the main marine force left Afghanistan. The US, Israel and Turkey were due to hold joint exercises codenamed Anatolian Eagle this year, but in another sign of accelerated preparations there will be three such exercises in the next few months, based at the Turkish air force base at Konya. Once upgraded, Konya could be used alongside Incirlik as a base for air strikes on northern Iraq. The Pentagon’s military planners are reported to have agonised over the Iraq plan because of the significant risk that Saddam – aware that unlike during the Gulf war his own life is at stake this time – would use chemical and biological weapons against US troop concentrations and Israel. The danger would be minimised by intensive bombing of missile launchers, but the generals reportedly remain extremely concerned that the risks cannot be eliminated entirely. The CIA’s covert war would involve arming and training Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq and Shi’ite forces in Kuwait. CIA trainers and special forces troops have already been dispatched to Kuwait for that purpose, and may already have begun work. Meanwhile, CIA and special forces will launch a campaign of sabotage and information warfare in the next few months. The CIA puts very little faith in the military capacity of the main opposition movement, the Iraqi National Congress, but it has begun intensive consultations with INC officials about the logistics of training and arming the movement’s supporters. The trigger could be the expected row over weapons inspections in three months’ time. America’s allies are clinging to the hope that US military action will be forestalled by Baghdad’s acceptance of unconditional and unfettered weapons inspections when the international sanctions regime comes up for review at the United Nations in May. However, Iraq’s vice-president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, said yesterday there was no need for “spies” from the UN inspection teams to return to the country. A US state department official said he thought it very unlikely that the Iraqi regime would be prepared to accept the stringent programme of inspections the US will demand. As the American intelligence source put it, the White House “will not take yes for an answer”, suggesting that Washington would provoke a crisis. He added that he expected the war to begin soon after the May ultimatum. US allies in the Middle East have been informed that a decision to attack Iraq has already been taken, and diplomats from the region said yesterday they were resigned to the inevitability of a war that may threaten the stability of a string of Arab regimes. “It is a nightmare situation for us,” said one Arab diplomat in Washington. “We feel the Americans will take very drastic action and we have to be prepared for such a reality. But the public opinion in the street will not see this as a benign attempt to restore order, but as American imperialism.” France, Germany and others in the European Union have been queuing up to make clear to Mr Bush that they will not support him in military action against Iraq. The German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, this week joined the French foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, in expressing publicly his concern about US policy towards Iraq. But Tony Blair and the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, have refused to join the public outcry. A Foreign Office official said yesterday that military action was not imminent, but would be “a question of months”. A Foreign Office spokesman later said: “The prime minister has made it clear from the outset that the campaign would have two phases: the first focusing on Afghanistan and the second looking at different aspects of international terrorism. In that context, we have to look at issues such as weapons of mass destruction.” There are regular exchanges between the US state department and the Foreign Office on strategy for tackling Iraq. The Foreign Office spokesman said: “We will proceed in consultation with our allies and the precise methods of action will be for consultation in due course.” In the months after September 11, the Foreign Office repeatedly ruled out military action against Iraq, other than the regular bombing along its border with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Its line at the time was that there was no evidence linking Iraq to terrorist activity.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, all US allies neighbouring Iraq, expect to sustain significant economic and political damage from a new conflict. Jordan believes it stands to lose $800m (£500m) from the interruption of deliveries of cheap Iraqi oil

Bahrain, Emirates, Egypt back Saudi peace proposals

20 Feb 2002

 MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on Wednesday welcomed a reported Saudi offer to Israel for a peace treaty with the Arab world in exchange for an Israeli pullout from occupied Arab territories.The New York Times on Sunday reported that Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had considered offering Israel peace with the entire Arab world in exchange for a withdrawal from all the territory occupied in the 1967 Mideast war, including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, which are claimed by the Palestinians. That has been a longstanding Arab position.Columnist Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times, quoted Abdullah as saying that he had a speech ready to deliver to the Arab summit meeting next month in Lebanon making the offer but had changed his mind because he blamed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the upsurge in violence.Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa welcomed the reported offer as “important,” Bahrain’s official news agency reported.”It falls within the framework of efforts the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is exerting to end the occupation of all Arab territories seized in 1967, end the conflict in the region and for the brotherly Palestinian people to achieve its rights in establishing an independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital.”The United Arab Emirates also welcomed Abdullah’s reported comments.”This position confirms that the Arabs are capable of taking the serious and correct steps at the right time … to contribute to achieving world peace and security and guaranteeing the Palestinian people their right,” State Minister for Foreign Affairs Sheik Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan was quoted as saying Wednesday by the government-controlled Al-Ittihad daily in Abu Dhabi.Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, whose country was the first Arab country to have a peace treaty with Israel, said in an interview published in the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh on Wednesday that said the Saudi move was a confirmation of the kingdom’s support of the Palestinians.”It is hoped that the government of Israel listens to the voices of reason emanating from the Arab world instead of continuing a stupid policy based on wrong and continuing aggression, a policy that did not and will not bring about peace to Israel or the states of the region,” he told the newspaper.The government of Saudi Arabia has not officially confirmed the crown prince’s remarks. But the comments were carried on the official Saudi Press Agency, quoting the New York Times, and government-controlled newspapers have been reporting reactions to Abdullah’s comments.

In Israel, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has welcomed the step as interesting and positive, showing a willingness to advance toward peace.

Egyptian-Bahraini joint gas processing company

February 20, 2002 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) — The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum and the Bahrain Gas Corporation agreed to set up a joint gas and petrochemicals processing company, reported Al-Hayat . The new joint company will build a complex to extract Egyptian natural gas products such as propane and ethane. The company will produce 500,000 tons of ethane and 300,000 tons of propane per annum. These two substances are highly used as raw materials for manufacturing chemicals in the Arabian Gulf region. – (

Iraqi President Congratulates Bahraini King

February 20, 2002 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) — Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has congratulated King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamed Ben Isa Al Khalefa on the occasion of the declaration of the kingdom in Bahrain, according to the Iraq News Agency.
The Iraqi leader wished the king good health and happiness and the people of Bahrain further progress and prosperity. He affirmed Baghdad’s keenness on enriching relations with Bahrain, in the service of the “two brotherly countries” and the Arab nation

‘Saadoun’: Second Gulf Series Aired By Egyptian TV

February 19, 2002 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) — The Executive director of the Radio and TV Corporation in Bahrain, Ibrahim al Thawadi, donated the multi-prize winning series Saadoun to the Nile Drama Channel, according to the head of Nile Specialty Channels Department Nagwa Abu al Naga.”The Bahraini series Saadoun won many prizes including the silver prize at Cairo Radio and TV Festival and the golden prize at the Gulf Radio and TV Festival, Shwikar Khalifa, the head of the Drama Channel, told the daily al Gomhuria.Saadoun belongs to the social drama genre and depicts three adolescents who face difficult social conditions, which transform them into homeless people. The life course of each of them is defined during a period of time between 1956-1967 in addition to the events, which the Arab world witnessed over the past era.The series is scripted by Rashed al Jawder and directed by Ahmed al Muklah and costarring Jamaan al Ruwiei, Ibrahim Bahr, Ali al Ghurair, Ahmed Mjalli, Merriam Zaiman, Zainab al Askari and Yousef Bu Hloul.

Saadoun is the second series on the list of the Drama Channel for gulf series to be aired after the Kuwaiti series Jurh al Zaman (Time’s Wound) which managed to break the rule of the Egyptian satellite channel under which Egyptian series used to be aired only.

Gulf Petrochemical Industries announces profit

19 Feb 2002

 MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain-based Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co. announced a net profit of 9.47 million Bahraini dinars (dlrs 25 million) in 2001.In a statement carried by the official Bahrain News Agency and in local newspapers on Tuesday, the company said that the profit was an increase of 179 percent, or 6.1 million dinars (dlrs 16 million), over the forecast for that year.Company exports were 5 percent above the forecast, reaching 1.1 million tons last year.Sheik Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s oil minister and chairman of GPIC’s board, said the rise in profits and exports was due to improvement in prices of products, especially methanol, as well as an 8 percent increase in the production of ammonia and urea to reach 1.48 million tons.Urea accounted for 41 percent of the products, followed by ammonia at 31 percent and methanol at 28 percent. Products were exported to international markets, mainly the United States, South America, the Indian subcontinent and Japan.GPIC was established in 1979 as an equal partnership between the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. sfg/db

Marcel Khalifa, Umaima al Khalil Sing in Bahrain

February 19, 2002 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) — The Lebanese singers Marcel Khalifa and Umaima al Khalil performed a concert at the International Gulf Conference Center in Bahrain, which was overcrowded with audience from Bahrain and some gulf states, according to the daily al Hayat.The Progressive Democratic Manbar Association organized the concert in collaboration with the al Ayyam Press and Publication Establishment on the first anniversary of the release of Bahrain National Action Charter and the first anniversary of the association establishment.The concert was opened with Andalusian music based on the lute played by Khalifa amid warm welcome by the audience. Khalifa performed also 17 music and singing pieces including six without singing and the rest were alternated between him and Khalil.Khalifa then played four music pieces including Khiyam inspired from the desert, Granada which saluted the Arab old musician Zeriab, and playing the lute. Before Khalil took her turn, Khalifa sang the two songs Tifel Wa Tayyarah (Child and Plane) and Hobb (Love) written by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.Khalil began singing, without music, the second part of the song Ahmed al A’rabi and then he participated with Khalil in singing part of the Ahmed al Arabi.The two singers continued singing Shams al Shammouseh, Tekbar Fi al Eamar, Rita, and Asfour Tall Min al Shubbak (Bird Appeared From Window) which Khalifa dedicated to Arab prisoners in the Arab secret prisons.”I am still a prisoner,” commented Khalifa who introduced the Bahraini fife player Mohammed al Ghanem who played a new music piece using the flute and violin.

Khalifa concluded the concert with three songs: al Hudood (Borders), which he sang along with the audience; Mohammed al Dorrah which he sang using the flute; and Salam A’laik (Peace Upon You) –

Bahrain buzzing with politics over landmark polls

 By Isa MubarakMANAMA, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s fledgling political groups are buzzing with activity ahead of the country’s first parliamentary elections in 27 years and long-awaited municipal polls.While some of the newly-authorised opposition groups are scrambling to draw up electoral platforms, others are still debating whether to take part in the polls after controversial constitutional changes that gave legislative power to a non-elected assembly.”We want to enter parliament, we want to get into municipal council and we also want to correct some of what happened on February 14,” prominent opposition leader Mansoor al-Jamri said.On that date, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa announced that municipal elections would be held in May followed in October by the first parliamentary elections in 27 years.Under amendments decreed by the king, a chamber appointed by him will have legislative powers on a par with the newly-elected parliament, a sore point with the opposition.”Time is very short…Political groups are catching their breath and working on how to present their political message,” Jamri, who returned to Bahrain last year after 15 years in exile, told Reuters.POLL DATES WELCOMEDHe welcomed the earlier-than-expected election dates, which caught the Gulf Arab state’s many small political groups by surprise. But he said the constitutional changes should be subject to a referendum or a vote by the new parliament.Opposition groups say officials had assured them the appointed chamber would not be given legislative powers.”Our society is still considering whether it would be useful to participate in the election or not,” said Sheikh Ali Salman, a Shi’ite Muslim cleric who led the opposition in the 1990s.Sheikh Ali now heads one of Bahrain’s main Shi’ite groups.Bahrain’s first elected parliament was dissolved in 1975, prompting unrest among majority Shi’ites demanding political and economic reforms from the Sunni Muslim-led government.Bahrainis overwhelmingly backed reforms proposed by King Hamad last year calling for a constitutional monarchy and an elected parliament alongside an appointed consultative council.The reforms also included an amnesty for political prisoners and exiles. Many political groups were authorised after being banned for decades.”We will support the reforms programme in general and will push the democratic process forward,” Abdul Jalil al-Singace from Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society said.”The rights of women would also be one of our objectives, including, for example, getting equal civil rights like the men,” he added.”There are going to be alliances and cooperation between groups ahead of the elections this summer, so this summer will be a hot one in Bahrain,” said lawyer Sheikh Isa bin Mohammed al-Khalifa, who has applied to set up an Islamic society.Five Islamic and liberal groups met on Sunday and agreed to set up a committee to study the new constitution, in an apparent move to criticise the amendments.Bahrain’s reforms aim to reunite the island state, a banking hub in the Gulf region which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth fleet.

Saltanov to hold talks with Bahraini PM

ABU DHABI, Feb 17, 2002 (Itar-Tass via COMTEX) — Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov, who has arrived in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on the final leg of his tour of Gulf countries, is expected to hold talks with Bahrain’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifah bin Sulman Al-Khalifah, and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammad bin Mubarak bin Hamad Al-Khalifah on Monday.The high-ranking Russian diplomat has become the first foreign figure to visit Manama since the Emirate of Bahrain was declared a kingdom and constitutional monarchy.Gulf Cooperaiton Council (GCC) member-countries and Russia strive “to elevate their mutually beneficial trade-and-economic relations to the same level as that of their political dialogue”, Saltanov told Itar-Tass at the close of his stay in the United Arab Emirates.The Russian diplomat said Russia is interested in the development of business partnership with GCC countries. “The most effective ways to strengthen bilateral contacts” were discussed diring the talks in the Arab capitals, Saltanov said.

“Our reltiaons have quite good prospects. It is essential for both sides to take active practical steps which would help promote our cooperation in various spheres,” The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said.

British deputy prime minister visits Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP), 17 Feb — Britain’s deputy prime minister, John Prescott, arrived in Bahrain on Sunday to discuss regional and international issues and this country’s newly proclaimed constitutional monarchy.The official Bahrain News Agency said Prescott will discuss strengthening bilateral relations with the Gulf kingdom that was ruled by Britain until 1971.Prescott’s two-day visit to Bahrain is the first by a senior British government official in more than 10 years, the British Embassy said.It said Prescott will be carrying a special message of congratulations from British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the Bahraini king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, “on the historic occasion of Bahrain’s constitutional reform.”On Thursday, Sheik Hamad proclaimed Bahrain a constitutional monarchy, with him as king, and called municipal and legislative elections for later this year, leading his fellow Gulf Arabs in taking the country from the traditional emiri absolute rule to a more democratic government.The British official is also expected to meet senior Bahraini officials and British and Bahraini businessmen. He will also attend a reception aboard the HMS Portland, a British navy ship deployed in the region.sfg-hhr

Bahrain Makes New Flag Decorated With Royal Crown

February 17, 2002 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) — The King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa issued a royal order on Saturday to make a new flag for the country under the monarchy.The Bahrain news agency said the new flag would be adorned with the golden royal crown and colored in red and white.The new flag, symbolizing establishment of the royal system, would be hoisted atop all royal palaces, decorate the king’s cars, airports and ports.Meanwhile, King Hamad issued an order for dissolving the Shura council and revoking a previous decree stipulating its establishment. The order stipulated dissolving the council and assigning the premier to carry out the order, effective immediately. The order will be published in the Gazette.On Thursday, Hamad declared the Kingdom of Bahrain and adopted the amended constitution which calls for a better representation of the people in a bi-cameral Parliament. The legislative elections will be held on October 24.

Municipal elections will be on May 9. The announcements by the King were made on the first anniversary of the endorsement by referendum of the National Charter for the modernisation of the institutions and constitutional reforms.

Bahrain’s king dissolves consultative council

16 Feb 2002

By SAM F. GHATTASAssociated Press WriterMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain’s newly proclaimed king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, on Saturday dissolved an appointed consultative council to pave the way for legislative elections.Sheik Hamad on Thursday proclaimed himself king and Bahrain a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament. The changes are part of political reforms and modernization of the country’s institutions, which were based on the traditional Arab Gulf emiri system of government in which the ruler, or emir, enjoyed absolute power.On Saturday, Sheik Hamad canceled earlier decrees creating the Shura consultative council, an advisory body with no legislative powers. It will be replaced by a parliament, one chamber of which will be elected in October and another will be appointed by the government.A year ago, Bahrainis overwhelmingly approved the reforms in a referendum for a national charter, which promised to turn the tiny Gulf island nation into a constitutional monarchy with elected parliament and local officials. The charter allows women to vote and run for office.Also Saturday, Sheik Hamad canceled another emiri decree issued by his father, the late Sheik Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, that dissolved an elected assembly in 1975 amid a political deadlock.In another change, Sheik Hamad added a golden crown to the Bahraini white-and-red flag, reflecting the country’s transformation into a kingdom.Bahrain has already changed its name from the State of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Bahrain and announced a new national anthem. The king also called the first municipal elections for May.Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the prime minister and king’s uncle, on Saturday thanked members of the old Shura council and told them in a meeting that new political changes dictated “dissolving it as a prelude to forming a new one” with different constitutional authority.During the mid-1990s, Shiite Muslims, who form a slight majority, staged a violent campaign for political reform and restoration of parliament, triggering a government crackdown. More than 40 people were killed in the unrest. The Al Khalifa ruling family hails from the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam.After Sheik Hamad became ruler in 1999 on the death of his father, he released political prisoners and allowed exiles to return as the unrest subsided.According to the constitutional amendments approved on Thursday, Sheik Hamad will appoint one of the legislature’s two houses. Although promising to cooperate in the process, opposition groups criticized the move, saying it gives the ruler power over lawmaking.Still, the changes in Bahrain were largely seen as bold steps toward bringing more democracy to the conservative oil-rich Gulf region, where political freedoms are limited.A tiny island nation of 600,000 people in the central Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Bahrain is a close U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. It is a financial hub and boasts a relatively open society where women enjoy more rights than in other Gulf countries and where alcohol is readily available.Since its independence from Britain in 1972, Bahrain has only been ruled by the Al Khalifa family.Kuwait is currently the only Arab Gulf state with an elected legislature, but Kuwaiti women cannot run for office or vote. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates are ruled by royal families with public input from appointed consultative councils.

Saudi Arabia is the only other Gulf country with a king. Other Gulf rulers hold titles of emir or sultan. Bahrain becomes the fourth Arab kingdom, after Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.


MANAMA, Feb 16 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa dissolved the country’s appointed consultative council on Saturday paving the way for parliamentary elections for the first time in 27 years.”The Shura Council is dissolved,” said a royal decree, published by the official Bahrain News Agency, adding that earlier decrees setting up the assembly were cancelled.Sheikh Hamad, who assumed power as Bahrain’s emir upon the death of his father in 1999, on Thursday announced the Gulf Arab state a “constitutional kingdom” and proclaimed himself king.He has also set parliamentary elections for October 24.Bahrain’s first elected parliament was dissolved in 1975, leading to unrest. It was replaced with the Shura Council that was appointed by the head of state and which advises him on affairs of state.

The king also changed the country’s flag to reflect the changes introduced by the constitutional amendments.

Several Bahrainis missing after going to Afghanistan

16 Feb 2002

 MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Several Bahrainis who went to Afghanistan after America launched military strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida forces remain missing, leaving relatives unsure of their fate, a human rights group said Saturday.At least two and as many as four Bahrainis are unaccounted for, said Salman Kamal al-Deen, vice president of the Bahrain Human Rights Society.It was not clear if they were still in Afghanistan, had fled the country or were being held by government or U.S. forces.”We want to know if they are present, then we (want) try to repatriate them back to the country (Bahrain),” al-Deen told The Associated Press. “If they are missing we try to find out what happened to them.”But he added that “if they are prisoners somewhere at least the society will carry out its humanitarian duty … to be assured of their humanitarian condition, especially after how we saw they (the prisoners) were treated.”Al-Deen was apparently referring to the manner in which several hundred Arabs and other foreign nationals have been detained at U.S. military facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. The detainees are suspected of being members of the toppled hard-line Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.Al-Deen said relatives of two of the missing Bahrainis had recently approached the society seeking information about the men’s fate. The group has contacted the Bahraini Foreign Ministry, U.S. Embassy and Red Cross about the first two men, but received no information.Al-Deen said the men, aged in their 30s, had entered Afghanistan through Pakistan shortly after the U.S. bombing campaign began Oct. 7. He did not think, however, that they had gone to fight for Taliban or al-Qaida forces.The society wants to verify information that two other Bahrainis are missing in Afghanistan.They “possibly went on a humanitarian mission or were possibly sympathizers,” he said. But “this is not important for us. What concerns us is that they are Bahraini nationals,” he said.”If there are indications that they have no guilt or there is nothing documented against them we, in cooperation with the government of Bahrain and the Foreign Ministry, demand that they are returned to Bahrain,” he added.There was no immediate comment from the Bahraini government.Since the Taliban’s collapse, conquering opposition groups and U.S. forces have rounded up Arabs found in Afghanistan, including Saudis and Yemenis believed to have been Taliban and al-Qaida members.

The al-Qaida terrorist group had managed to entice Arabs to Afghanistan to train in its terrorist camps and fight for its cause.

Gulf News (UAE) – 13 February 2002New beginning in BahrainBy Latheef FarookThe tremendous achievements in Bahrain since December 2000 are attributed byMansoor Al Jamri, former spokesman for the London-based Bahrain FreedomMovement, to a calming down of the situation, ending the state security andemergency laws implemented in the country.Al Jamri has returned home to Bahrain under the new environment of opennessfollowing reforms introduced by Emir His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa AlKhalifa. He is busy now putting together a new newspaper.Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview here in Manama yesterday hesaid: “We have been living under emergency since 1957 and there have been a lotof people born and brought up in an environment under emergency. All of a suddenone realizes that there is another life and environment beyond emergency laws.Bahrain also recovered its reputation internationally and enjoyed the freedom ofspeech, though not the freedom of the press.”Al Jamri said: “The people have been also very happy for about a year now. Upuntil this month we have been living in a period of honeymoon and we hope thatthis honeymoon and peaceful environment continues in the years to come in theoverall interest of the country.”However, Al Jamri expressed his fear that some latest developments in thecountry might raise people’s concerns about the political future of the island.”The fast spreading rumour about the imminent publication of an amendedconstitution that had been amended in secret by some experts whose background,authority and the like were not known, is one such development.”These experts seem to have come to the conclusion that the National ActionCharter gave the mandate and authority to the goverrnment to issue an amendedconstitution without referring it to an elected council or submitting it to anational debate with a referendum. This rumour has spread widely with a lot ofspeculations and the people are yet to see the amended constitution. Thesituation has been exacerbated as it was done in secret,” said Al Jamri.On February 5, Al Jamri said, prominent activists were summoned by the InteriorMinistry and were told that they were on the U.S. blacklist related toterrorism. This has created an uproar inside Bahraini society with so many beingalarmed by the language used.Moreover, when the Americans denied that there was a U.S. blacklist containing99 names as had been claimed by the authorities, people were perplexed aboutwhat had happened especially at a time when the reconciliation process has beenunderway in full force and the people were fully behind changes as they haddemonstrated by the 98.4 per cent vote they gave in the referendum for NAC lastyear.”These two things have changed a little bit the fast changing politicalenvironment and confused the people,” said Al Jamri, who pointed out that thereis a firm determination among the elite of the society and those dignitaries tocontinue to extend every possible support to the Emir, Sheikh Hamad, in hisreform programme to take the country into the 21st Century and bring unity andprogress.”All the people still trust the Emir and pin their full hope in his political,economic and social reforms. However, the seemingly imminent publication of anamended constitution, which the people are afraid might contain some articlesthat violate the NAC, the understanding and the statements made by the Emir,Crown Prince and BDF Commander-in-Chief Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, andthe Justice Minister just few days before the referendum on February 14 lastyear,” he added.”All these things have somehow brought many issues to surface and all arediscussing what we should do to make the reform process a success. What isimportant is to ensure that the process is not one-sided, but a multi-party one.”We have expressed out faith in the Emir and we would like to continue tosupport him and all what we want is that the reform process must beparticipatory one involving all,” said al Jamri.He added that right now all are seeking effective participation. The Emir haspromised us transparency and accountability and we would like to seetransparency in this process and the making of the new constitution.There might have been gratitude and some sort of goodies here and there. Butthat is temporary and what the people need is to see the materialisation of theconcept of transparency, accountability and political rights, he noted.”The need of the hour is to ensure that the civil society and the governmentrepresented by the Emir coming together to deliver to the nation. The NGOs andthe state need to deliver on political rights and so far the delivery has beenon two aspects – ending emergency laws and relieving tension in the societybesides some good gestures to the needy such as waïving part of housing loans,reducing university tuition fees, financial benefits to the unemployed and thelike.In fact these two are preconditions for political reforms where both sidesshould be equal partners to ensure it is sustainable for the future. Thus, weall need to come together. So far this has not happened and all what has beenhappening was one sided.Multi-sided process”We would like it to be started, but as a multisided process,” said Al Jamri,who pointed out “there is a will on the part of the Emir towards this directionand we want to push towards this direction.”He said: “What is happening now is the mushrooming of political societies andNGOs which differ with each other on various topics and approaches and they haveforgotten their priorities.”He predicted that the people will be frustrated if the societies and NGOs forgettheir priorities and continue in the way they are going about. Already there aresigns of frustration and some uncontrollable elements may even try to cash onthis situation for their own ends.Meanwhile, there are many positive aspects in the amended constitution such asan audit office that will be under the authority of the elected council, vote ofconfidence on the ministers will in the hands of the elected body, aconstitutional court overriding decision-making powers, there will be ministersof out of parliament, full political rights for women, avenues for formingpolitical parties and the like.But the negative side is that there is going to be an elected council of 40members and an appointed council of 40 others and a bill passed by the electedcouncil can be rejected by the appointed council and if the elected councilinsist they join together to take vote.The appointed 40 members will certainly vote for the government leading toone-way direction and this needs to be corrected.

Wall Street Journal

Feb 15, 2002, (Wall Street Journal /FT Information via COMTEX) — Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain yesterday announced that parliamentary elections will be moved from 2004 to October 24 this year, one of several democratic reforms expected to speed up the country’s shift to a government defined by a constitutional monarchy and an elected legislature. The new king will also enable women to run as candidates for the municipal elections on May 9 by signing into law their right to run for public office. Foreigners will also be able to vote during the municipal elections if they are citizens of a member country in the Gulf Cooperation Council or if they are property owners in Bahrain.
Abstracted from: The Wall St Journal (US Edition)

Bahrain’s New King Sets Election

15 Feb 2002

 By SAM F. GHATTASAssociated Press WriterMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain’s ruler declared his tiny Persian Gulf state a constitutional monarchy on Thursday and set legislative elections this year in bold steps toward bringing more democracy to the oil-rich region.Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, 49, gave his royal assent to constitutional amendments that create a bicameral legislature. The king, however, appoints one of the houses, allowing him to control lawmaking — a provision that brought criticism from the opposition.Sheik Hamad said he was “fulfilling his promise” and immediately called municipal elections May 9 and national legislative elections Oct. 24. Men and women will be allowed to vote and run for office.”We are keen to resume democratic life as soon as possible for the glory of Bahrain, its prosperity and development,” he said.The amendments change Sheik Hamad’s title to king from emir — a more traditional Arab title of royalty often translated as “commander” or “prince” — and officially change the country’s name to the Kingdom of Bahrain.This tiny island nation of 600,000 people between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a close U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet — making its political stability important for the West. Since its independence from Britain in 1972 it has only been ruled by the Al Khalifa family.During the mid-1990s, Shiite Muslims, who form a slight majority, staged a violent campaign for political reform, triggering a government crackdown. More than 40 people were killed in the unrest. The Al Khalifa ruling family hails from the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam.After Sheik Hamad became ruler in 1999 on the death of his father, he released political prisoners, allowed exiles to return as the unrest subsided and began the process of democratization.Opposition groups said the reforms fell short of their demands, but some said they were willing to cooperate.Hassan Mushaima, deputy leader of the opposition Wefaq Islamic Society, said criticized the government’s power to interfere in the legislative process. He said it was too early to tell whether opposition parties will take part in the elections.But Mansoor al-Jamri, a former dissident, said he expects the opposition to cooperate and “work from within the system to correct what happened.”Bahrain’s justice minister said the decision to turn the nation into a kingdom followed consultations with Arab and European constitutional experts.”It has become appropriate for Bahrain to take its place among constitutional monarchies which have a democratic system that achieves the people’s aspirations for progress,” Sheik Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said at the signing ceremony.A referendum a year ago overwhelmingly backed a national charter calling for constitutional amendments for a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament.Sheik Hamad decreed a bicameral legislature, one body made up of experts appointed by the palace and the other elected by the people. Both have equal legislative powers, ensuring the king has his way.Under the provisions, the king must also sign legislation passed by the houses, though it was not clear if he could refuse to do so.Still, the constitutional changes put Bahrain on the road to democratic rule in a conservative region where political freedoms are limited.Kuwait is currently the only Arab state in the Gulf with an elected legislature, but Kuwaiti women cannot run for office or vote. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates are ruled by royal families with public input from appointed consultative councils.Saudi Arabia is the only other Gulf country with a king. Other Gulf rulers hold titles of emir or sultan.Gulf political analyst Abdul-Khaleq Abdulla, of the United Arab Emirates University at Al-Ain, said the Bahraini constitutional monarchy is an “advancement over the traditional emiri system,” although both are hereditary.In the emiri system, the emir holds ultimate power. In a constitutional monarchy, the constitution is the focus of power and politics, he told The Associated Press.The kings of Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan sent congratulatory messages to Sheik Hamad, while officials in Egypt offered their praise. Kuwait called the developments “a historic turning point” for Bahrain.

Egypt Welcomes Declaration of Kingdom of Bahrain

CAIRO, February 14, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Egypt on Thursday voiced its welcome to the declaration of the Kingdom of Bahrain and the issuance of the Bahraini Constitution, including the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and the return of democratic parliamentary life.”The decision has been taken to resume democracy as soon as possible for the welfare and prosperity of Bahrain,” the Egyptian presidency said in a statement, quoted by the official MENA news agency.Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also congratulated Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa who was proclaimed “King of Bahrain” on the confidence of the Bahraini people who supported the constitutional amendments.Earlier in the day, Bahrain officially declared itself a constitutional monarchy, and Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa, now King Hamad, issued the first “royal” decree in the name of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Bahrain had a parliament till 1975, but it was dissolved after confrontation between the government and members of the parliament.

Bahrain Now Constitutional Monarchy

14 Feb 2002

 By SAM F. GHATTASAssociated Press WriterMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain’s ruler proclaimed himself king and his tiny Gulf island state a constitutional monarchy Thursday, and called for legislative and local elections in line with a promise to make Bahrain a democracy.Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa — who had been an emir — gave his royal assent to constitutional amendments at a ceremony at the palace that was broadcast nationwide. With the stroke of a pen, he became king and this state of 600,000 was declared the Kingdom of Bahrain.Saudi Arabia is the only other Gulf kingdom. Other Gulf rulers hold the titles of emir or sultan.Sheik Hamad said he was “fulfilling his promise” to bring democracy to Bahrain and immediately called national elections for a legislative body in October and municipal elections in May. Sheik Hamad would still have the final say on most matters.”We are keen to resume democratic life as soon as possible for the glory of Bahrain, its prosperity and development.” Men and women will be allowed to vote and run for office.Although a tiny country in the oil-rich Gulf, Bahrain’s political stability is significant for the West. The country is a close U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.The constitutional changes were drafted by a committee Sheik Hamad had appointed following a referendum a year ago that called for a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain, which has been ruled solely by the Al Khalifa family. The referendum won 98.4 percent support.The constitutional changes put this small state on the road to democratic rule in the conservative region where political freedoms are limited.Kuwait is the only other Arab state of the Gulf Cooperation Council to have an elected legislature, but women there are not allowed to run for office or vote. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates are all ruled by royal families with public input from appointed consultative councils.Kuwait’s Emir Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah said in a message of congratulations to Bahrain’s king that today was “a historic turning point” that will “open a new phase full of hope and achievement” for Bahrain and its people, according to Kuwait’s news agency.While the amendments go a long way toward giving Bahrainis a say in government and answering opposition demands, it was clear that the king will continue to have the final say in all matters.Bahrain will have a bicameral legislature, with one chamber elected by the people and the other, a Shura consultative council of experts, appointed by the government. Elections for the first chamber will be Oct. 24.The two chambers will be equal when it comes to legislation, while the elected body will watch over the government. By keeping an appointed Shura council, the king will ensure loyalty and veto power. Opposition groups have criticized giving the unelected chamber legislative powers.Hassan Mushaimi, deputy leader of the opposition Wefaq Islamic Society, said it was too early to tell whether opposition parties will take part in the elections. He criticized the amendments, saying they gave the government power to interfere in the legislative process.During the mid-1990s, Shiite Muslims, who form a slight majority in Bahrain, staged a violent campaign for political reform. The resulting crackdown led to hundreds of prosecutions and more than 40 deaths. The Al Khalifa ruling family comes from the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam.The late Sheik Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the king’s father, dealt sternly with the Shiite rebellion. But since Sheik Hamad became ruler in 1999, he has pledged to gradually install a fully elected parliament and hold municipal elections. He has also released political prisoners and allowed exiles to return as the unrest subsided.By offering an elected parliament, and declaring all citizens equal regardless of religion, sect or class, the national charter, approved in a referendum last February, tried to satisfy the main Shiite grievances.Bahrain’s last national assembly was dissolved in 1975. An appointed Shura consultative council has women among its members but municipal elections set for May 9 promise to be the first time women will be able to run for public office in Bahrain. Women also can run and vote in parliamentary elections.

Bahrain to vote for first parliament

 By Isa MubarakMANAMA, Feb 14 (Reuters) – Bahrain said on Thursday it would hold its first parliamentary elections in 27 years, ushering in long-awaited reforms aimed at healing sectarian rifts in the Gulf Arab state.The ruler of Bahrain, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, set October 24 as the date for the polls during a speech broadcast on state television.He also announced that Bahrain, a small island with a Shi’ite Muslim majority that has been ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifas for over 200 years, would revive municipal elections which would see women running for office for the first time.”These decisions were taken to resume democracy as soon as possible for the welfare and prosperity of Bahrain,” Sheikh Hamad said on the first anniversary of a referendum on reform measures he had suggested last year.”We announce the full reactivation of Bahrain’s constitution…for the achievement of further gains and freedoms,” he added.

Sheikh Hamad said Bahrain would now officially become a “constitutional kingdom” and proclaimed himself a monarch.

REFORMS PROCEEDINGBahrain’s first elected parliament was dissolved in 1975, leading to unrest. It was replaced with a Shura Council appointed by the emir and which advises him on affairs of state.Minister of Justice Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Khalifa, who is also head of the constitutional amendment committee, said the Shura Council would be given legislative powers on a par with the new elected parliament — a sore point with the opposition.”This decreases public participation in decision-making and I think is a backward step for constitutional development,” said Sheikh Ali Salman, a Shi’ite cleric who lead the opposition in the 1990s and now heads an Islamic group.British Ambassador Peter Ford, however, praised the changes.”This is the time for all Bahrainis to rally together and take full advantage of the new system,” he told Reuters.The elections are part of the national charter which Sheikh Hamad, who took over after his father’s death in 1999, drafted and which Bahrainis overwhelmingly backed in the country’s first public referendum since its 1971 independence from Britain.Bahrain, a relatively liberal Gulf state where the U.S. navy’s Fifth Fleet is located, was wracked by sectarian unrest in the 1990s, when Shi’ite Muslims demanded a larger say in the affairs of their oil-rich country.The previous emir, Sheikh Isa al-Khalifa, had arrested and exiled many opposition members but Sheikh Hamad released many political prisoners and abolished emergency laws last year as a goodwill gesture.Sheikh Hamad has also said he would not object to the creation of political parties provided they maintained social unity. He has not said what he would consider divisive.The emir did not give any details about the electoral process, although royal decrees approved earlier say Bahrainis over 20 and without criminal records will be able to vote.In the municipal elections, property-owners and nationals of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states who live on the island can also cast their votes — making Bahrain the only Arab country that allows foreigners to vote.The GCC political and economic alliance groups Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.


 MANAMA, Feb 14 (Reuters) – Women can now officially run for elected office in the conservative Gulf state of Bahrain.Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has passed into law a landmark municipal elections bill that for the first time gives them the right to become candidates.Women can vote, work and own businesses in Bahrain but have not previously been able to stand for election.The royal decree, part of social and political reforms launched last year in this small island nation, was published by the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) on Thursday. Bahrain stopped electing municipal councils in the 1960s and members have since been appointed by the government.The BNA said another decree would set the date for the elections, which would then occur 30 days later. Officials expect the vote to take place during the first half of 2002.The decree coincides with the first anniversary of a referendum in which Bahrainis backed a reformist national charter suggested by the emir. The country had been shaken by four years of unrest by the majority Shi’ite Muslim community in the 1990s demanding reforms from the Sunni-led government.The charter calls for establishing an elected parliament alongside the appointed advisory Shura Council and a constitutional monarchy. Bahrain dissolved its first elected parliament in 1975.The assembly will be elected by 2004 and is aimed at giving Bahrainis a bigger say in running their country. Sheikh Hamad is expected to announce the date and details of the election during a speech later on Thursday.


CAIRO, February 14, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Bahrain officially declared itself a constitutional monarchy under Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al- khalifa on Thursday, the Egyptian MENA news agency reported.Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa, now King Hamad, issued the first “royal” decree in the name of the Kingdom of Bahrain on the the first anniversary of the endorsement by popular referendum.

The first article of the decree changes the name of Bahrain into the Kingdom of Bahrain. The second article changes the title of ” the Emir of Bahrain” into “King of the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

Bahrain OKs Municipal Election Law

14 Feb 2002

By SAM F. GHATTASAssociated Press WriterMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A year after Bahrainis backed a national charter for democratic reform, Bahrain’s ruler on Wednesday took a key step toward representative government by approving a law on municipal elections.The highlight of the law is that women will for the first time have the right to run for public office.An official announcement that Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa assented to the law came several hours after the Cabinet approved the law in an extraordinary session.According to the announcement made on Bahrain’s state-run television and the official Bahrain News Agency, the emir’s decree allows men and women aged 21 and over to vote.Gulf Cooperation Council nationals who are permanent Bahraini residents and others who own property in Bahrain are also eligible to vote in municipal polls. The GCC is a grouping of Arab Gulf states — Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates — that coordinates political and economic policies.Earlier Wednesday, Bahrain’s Cabinet decided on the municipal election draft law on the eve of the first anniversary of a historic referendum in which Bahrainis overwhelmingly voted for a national charter that promised an elected parliament, independent judiciary, and greater freedoms and equality.The charter set in motion a process that may put this tiny Gulf nation, which is ruled by a royal family, on the road to democratic rule in this conservative region where political freedoms are limited.No date was set for the first municipal elections. The royal decree said the decision rests with the prime minister.Until now, municipal officials have been government-appointed.Sheik Hamad became ruler in 1999 and has pledged to gradually install a fully elected parliament and hold municipal elections, but with him remaining the final authority.The country’s last national assembly was dissolved in 1975. An appointed Shura consultative council has women among its members but municipal elections promise to be the first time women will be able to run for public office in Bahrain.

Bahrain jails Mozambican heroin smuggler

MANAMA, Feb 13 (Reuters) – A court in Bahrain has jailed a Mozambican man for 10 years for smuggling heroin into the Gulf Arab state, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.The daily Akhbar al-Khaleej said the man had been arrested at Bahrain airport three months ago with 115 small balls of heroin weighing about 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) in his stomach. He was also fined 5,000 dinars ($13,260).


13 Feb 2002

By Tom Whitehead, Nell Raven and Nick Allen, PA NewsAn urgent security review was under way today into how raiders managed to gain access to a controlled area of Heathrow Airport to snatch 4.6 million.The Home Office and the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) last night said a report into security at the airport had been ordered.A joint statement from Home Secretary David Blunkett and Transport Secretary Stephen Byers said: “Mr Blunkett, who is responsible for domestic security in the UK, and Mr Byers, responsible for aviation security, want to know how thieves managed to gain access to the airport’s restricted zone during a period of heightened security in the wake of September 11.”The move comes after two men stole the money, in various currencies, from a secure cargo loading bay, in what detectives suspect may have been an inside job.Police yesterday released descriptions of the two raiders and revealed they used a white delivery van in their getaway.The first suspect is Asian, in his 20s or 30s and 5ft 11ins. He is believed to have been the driver of a British Airways van which was used in the heist.He is slim and was wearing a green khaki jacket, sunglasses and a dark coloured bobble hat with his long hair tucked under it.The second suspect is also Asian, in his early 40s, of average to stocky build and clean shaven.He was balding with short hair at the sides and back and was wearing a three-quarter-length high-visibility British Airways jacket.The men, who may have had legitimate security passes, attacked the driver of a BA security van in a secure airside cargo loading area near Terminal 4.Police called to the scene found the 35-year-old BA employee had been forced from his van by the robbers who threw him to the ground and bound his wrists.The men had transferred eight red cargo cash boxes containing the currency into another similar BA van before driving out of the airport in it.They escaped through Gate 24 and drove off later abandoning and burning the BA van two miles away in a residential area in Feltham, west London.They transferred the cash to the white delivery van before driving off.The currency had arrived at Heathrow on a BA flight from Bahrain and it is understood it was destined for JFK airport in New York.The BA van used by the raiders was genuine and had not been reported stolen.Detectives were continuing house to house inquiries and are gathering and examining CCTV footage.

11 February 2002A year of political reform brings few real changes to BahrainPath to Transformation is slow and filled with roadblocksEmir tries to appease the opposition without alienating his power base, theruling familyAbdulhadi KhalafSpecial to The Daily StarSTOCKHOLM: On Feb. 14, Bahrain celebrates the first anniversary of theplebiscite that approved the National Charter, the first step in the process ofpolitical reform that is intended to transform the country into a constitutionalmonarchy “on a par with other advanced constitutional monarchies.”Encouraged by the 98.4 percent vote favoring his blueprint for reform, the emir,Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, increased the pace of political relaxation inthe country. A state of national euphoria began to set in. The charter becameBahrain’s ticket to a period of political tranquility and hope.The package of reforms featured a general amnesty for political prisoners andexiles, the reinstatement of dissidents sacked from public sector jobs, thelifting of travel bans on political activists, and the abrogation of statesecurity laws. This was followed by more substantial moves, such as grantingpolitical rights to women and easing restrictions on the right to formassociations. These measures contributed to a rejuvenation of civil society andthe emergence of a multitude of new social and political associations formed byvarious shades of the Bahraini elite.Sheikh Hamad’s constitutional monarchy project follows the example set by thelate King Hussein of Jordan. The Jordanian monarch initiated his politicalreforms in April 1990 in response to a crisis of legitimacy exacerbated by acombination of severe and chronic fiscal difficulties, international pressure,and domestic opposition. In Amman as in Manama, the liberalization package wasformulated as part of a pre-emptive strategy to provide the regime withstability without risking any of the pillars of its power.During the past year, the Bahraini experiment has been closely watched by theruling families and political elites of other Gulf states. The slow pace, andlow political cost to the regime, of controlled liberalization in Bahrain wouldcertainly appeal to reluctant reformers elsewhere in the region.The record of the first year of political reforms is mixed. Members of theBahraini political and social elite are unanimous in their praise of the emir’sachievements. All opposition groups remain enthusiastic, if not as euphoric asthey were 12 months ago, about the political reform process and the ruler’s rolein it.Yet, while praiseworthy, the changes Sheikh Hamad has introduced to date remainfragile and are hostage to a number of factors, including the balance of powerwithin the ruling family. There is anecdotal evidence of chronic wrangling inthe family’s upper echelons. While such squabbles are public knowledge, thefamily as a whole has remained outwardly united. The pace and direction of thereform process will depend in part on whether the emir, and the country, canafford indefinitely the financial and political price of maintaining this unity.And it is open to question whether it can withstand the strains that wouldlikely emerge once planned political reforms are translated into practice andstart affecting the ruling family’s privileges.In spite of its limitations, liberalization could generate its own momentum. Asmore people become aware of their collective civic power, they are likely to actto expand the perimeters of liberalization by pressing for additional, andpossibly far-reaching, demands.Such a “snowballing of demands” is already in evidence, generating competing andoften incompatible demands from representatives of different ethnic groups andsub-groups, urban and rural communities, and tribal and confessional blocs. Thisdevelopment has already shattered the remaining facades of unity among theopposition.Another major weakness in Bahrain’s reform process is that it was started as anemiri initiative. Indeed, it is portrayed not so much as a political resolutionof a very difficult and political conflict, but rather as a grand gesture fromthe emir to his people. Various reform measures have been introduced as a seriesof handouts which are the ruler’s exclusive prerogative. In short, the promisesof democratization remain subject to emiri decrees.Critics worry that most of these handouts are ad hoc measures responding toimmediate demands by various vocal interest groups. They are also concernedabout the strains some of them ­ such as an extra month’s pay decreed for stateemployees ­ place on the public purse, as well as their inflationary effects.The emir may need to seriously rethink his priorities in order to balance statefinances. He may have to consider reducing the ruling family’s share of staterevenues, or increasing those revenues through taxation. The political cost ofeither measure is hard to envisage.A further source of alarm is the fact that Sheikh Hamad, a would-beconstitutional monarch, remains reluctant to consult with any of the politicalgroups on the reform process. Only he has the power to chart its future, itsperimeters, its intensity and its extent. He also has the power to determinewhat social groups and what opposition networks are to be included in orexcluded from the reform process. While seemingly successful so far in hisendeavors to please everybody, Sheikh Hamad may soon realize he needs a morestable political base than that generated by ad hoc initiatives and handouts.Critics worry that Sheikh Hamad, as well as his euphoric supporters amongBahraini political elite, seems unable to distinguish between the roles ofconstitutional monarch and patrimonial autocrat. He is now widely expected,contrary to earlier promises, to amend the constitution unilaterally beforecalling parliamentary elections (probably for March next year), rather thanleaving the task to the reinstated legislature as the constitution requires.Despite his genuine concern for the future of the country, the emir remains ahostage of the ancien regime, its politics and institutions. Indeed, theday-to-day affairs of state are still run by his uncle, Sheikh Khalifa binSalman, the most visible member of the old guard who has been prime ministersince independence in 1971. A glimmer of hope appears in the anticipated inducedretirement, in the not too distant future, of the prime minister.Like the young monarchs of Morocco and Jordan, Sheikh Hamad has a difficultbalancing act to perform: to introduce as much political reform as necessary toappease opposition groups, and as little genuine change in order to avoidalienating the ruling family, his ultimate power base. During the past year, hehas proved himself as an astute tactician. He has done what conservativemodernizers are expected to do. To paraphrase Jean-Francois Bayart, author ofThe African State: The Politics of Belly, Sheikh Hamad has managed to generatethe impression that everything changes while most things, in fact, stay thesame.As they celebrate the first anniversary of the National Charter, many Bahrainiswill give due credit to Sheikh Hamad for improving their lot and giving themhope for a better future. Many would agree with his supporters’ contention thattransforming a tribal autocracy into a modern constitutional monarchy is along-term project that could stretch over several generations. However, manyalso will argue that the political reforms of the past year have not introducedany of the substantive systemic changes required for founding a constitutionalmonarchy.———————-

Dr. Abdulhadi Khalaf is a Bahraini academic who teaches Sociology of Development at the University of Lund, Sweden

Britain-Airport Robbery

12 Feb 2002

LONDON (AP) — Robbers held up a security van at Heathrow Airport on Monday and escaped with $6.5 million in a variety of currencies that had just arrived from Bahrain, police said.Police said the driver of the van was attacked by at least two men at the airport’s Terminal 4 at about 6:30 a.m. The robbers forced him to the ground and bound his wrists before transferring the cash into another van.The money had just arrived on British Airways Flight 124. The theft of the eight red cargo boxes of cash occurred as the 187 passengers left the plane and it was being refueled. Within five minutes, all airport security gates were closed, but the robbers were already gone, police said. Details on who owned the money were not released.The attack raised questions about the effectiveness of efforts to strengthen security at Heathrow after Sept. 11. It was unclear how the robbers got into an area reserved for airport personnel and how they knew their way around.The second van was later found abandoned and burned nearby, with no trace of the cash or the suspects. Police said they were seeking two males in connection with the robbery.The guard suffered shock and wrist injuries. Police said the man did not report seeing firearms during the robbery.

In 1983, robbers posing as security guards stole 26 million pounds ($37 million at today’s rates) worth of gold bullion from a warehouse at Heathrow. The men were later arrested, but most of the gold was never recovered.


By THOMAS WAGNERAssociated Press WriterLONDON (AP) — Robbers held up a security van at Heathrow Airport Monday and escaped with dlrs 6.5 million in American currency, which had just arrived from Bahrain, police said.The driver of the van was attacked by at least two men in a secure area at the airport’s Terminal 4 at about 6:30 a.m. (0630 GMT), police said.The robbers forced him to the ground and bound his feet and wrists before transferring the cash, which had just arrived on BA flight 124 with 187 passengers aboard, into another British Airways van.The theft of the eight red cargo boxes of cash occurred as passengers left the plane and it was being refueled at Heathrow, where security had been stepped since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.Within five minutes, all airport security gates were closed, but the robbers were already gone, police said.The area inside the security fence at the airport is large and complicated, leading some officials to speculate that the robbers may have had some connection with staff at the airport.Also, the second van had not been reported stolen. It was later found abandoned and burned in a residential area about two miles (3.2 kms) away, with no trace of the cash or the suspects. Police were searching for two males in connection with the robbery.The guard, who suffered shock and minor wrist injuries, did not report seeing firearms during the robbery, police said.Police would not confirm reports that the money was in transit through Heathrow from Bahrain to Kennedy International Airport in New York.

In 1983, robbers posing as security guards stole 26 million pounds (dlrs 37 million at today’s rates) in gold bullion from a high-security warehouse at Heathrow. The men were later arrested, but most of the gold has never been recovered.


 LONDON (Reuters) – Robbers escaped with $6.5 million in foreign currency Monday after raiding a British Airways security van at London’s Heathrow Airport, police said.It has been almost 20 years since Heathrow played host to what remains Britain’s biggest heist — the notorious Brink’s-Mat robbery — and Monday’s dawn getaway opens new questions about security at the world’s busiest international airport.At least two men attacked the driver of the van in a secure area at the airport’s Terminal 4 at around 6.30 a.m., forcing him to the floor and tying up his hands and feet.The cash, which had arrived on board a British Airways flight from Bahrain, was transferred to another vehicle carrying the British Airways livery and driven away. That vehicle was later found abandoned and burnt out in Feltham, a nearby west London suburb.”We think it was carrying foreign currency. We are looking at $6.5 million,” a police source told Reuters.Scotland Yard confirmed that a “substantial amount” of cash had been stolen but would not give exact details nor say to whom the money belonged.The van driver went to the hospital suffering from shock and slight injuries but his condition was not said to be serious.”We are cooperating fully with the police investigation,” a British Airways spokeswoman said. “At this stage there is no reason to believe any airline staff were involved.”But the robbery renews concerns about security at the airport which was tightened following the suicide hijacks on the United States on Sept. 11.British Airways denied their security procedures had been at fault, saying the British Airports Authority was responsible for that area. “Any possible breaches of security are a matter for them,” the airline’s spokeswoman said.The airports authority said police inquiries had not yet provided conclusive evidence of how the robbers pulled off the heist.”Following that we will take whatever action is necessary,” an airports authority spokeswoman said.The 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery netted $37 million. A six-member masked gang overpowered security guards at an airport warehouse and escaped with gold bullion and diamonds. It went down in criminal history as Britain’s biggest heist.


Parliamentary Elections Expected in Bahrain

February 11, 2002 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) — Bahrain is prepared to become a “kingdom” and the Bahraini people will also get the promised amended constitution and learn the date of parliamentary elections “within days”, sources told Gulf News daily.According to the daily, in his address on the Bahrain Defense Force Day last week, the Emir of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa announced that new constitutional amendments ‘have been put into place, and can be issued as soon as possible”.The sources said, “That will come sooner than everybody thinks. The Emir will again surprise [his] people.”In the speech he is expected to deliver on Thursday, the first anniversary of the ratification of the National Action Charter (NAC), the Emir of Bahrain is expected to declare the kingdom and announce the date of elections, the sources added.”The elections are expected to take place before the end of this year to coincide with the National Day celebrations, in mid-December,” they stated.The sources expressed that postponing the municipal elections, set originally to take place in May, is being reviewed now, in order to give a chance for people to campaign for parliamentary elections.

Last year, a majority of people voted for constitutional changes the Emir of Bahrain proposed in the NAC that would re-institute the parliament, which had been dissolved in 1974.

Gulf carriers seek aircraft sales cooperation

February 11, 2002 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) — Commercial carriers Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways are currently exploring aspects of cooperation in aircraft sales and of coordination in flight schedules at several Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) airports.The two airlines held their joint committee’s second meeting in Kuwait on Sunday, February 10, seeking to facilitate wider scale cooperation in the future. “Participants discussed cooperation in terms of aircraft sales and joint negotiation in order to obtain the optimal offers,” said Ahmed Al-Janahi, Gulf Air public relations manager.The two sides agreed on fostering technical co-operation between the two airlines to cover engineering and aircraft maintenance at some airports. Gulf Air will offer these services to Kuwait Airways in Bahrain, Karachi, Singapore, Doha and Riyadh. They also agreed on expanding joint technical support at international points such as Damascus, Beirut and Cairo. It was concluded that Kuwait Airways will offer training for Gulf Airs personnel.In mid-2001, Kuwait Airways was reported to be studying a regional airline scheme that would fly short-range routes, in a bid to cut the national-carrier’s operating costs. The airline has been suffering losses since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, during which it had lost 84 percent of its assets.Established in 1949, Gulf Air is the national carrier of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It operates approximately 1000 flights to and from the Gulf every week, serving over 53 cities worldwide. – (

By Mena Report Reporters

Prominent Shiite activists relieved to hear their names are not in a US blacklist

10 February 2002By ADNAN MALIKAssociated Press WriterMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Prominent Shiite political activists in Bahrain who had feared they were on a U.S. terrorist blacklist said Sunday they no longer believed they had been targeted by the Americans.”My activities are peaceful and I was sure my name was not on any list,” said Sheik Ali Salman, 35, who said he was among those summoned Tuesday by Bahraini authorities who told him he was on a U.S. blacklist.The U.S. Embassy, though, said no Bahrainis were on U.S. terror list and Bahrain’s Interior Ministry on Wednesday said it was merely following up on international inquiries seeking assurances that there were no suspected terrorists in Bahrain.”As far as I am concerned the matter is finished,” said Salman, a fiery Shiite Muslim preacher whose arrest in December 1994 had sparked street riots.Salman and others who said they were summoned included several leaders of a Shiite-led uprising in the mid-1990s. After a government crackdown ended the unrest, Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim leadership began urging reconciliation with Shiite activists.The activists said more than a dozen of them were summoned by local authorities who warned them their names appeared on a blacklist of 99 Bahrainis prepared by the United States after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.The activists said officials told them they were only safe in Bahrain and that they risked being arrested while traveling abroad.But the Interior Ministry statement, carried by the official Bahrain News Agency, said it had “notified” an unspecified number of Bahrainis “in light of international requests and inquiries.”The ministry said, “Bahrain has displayed cooperation in this respect, and has confirmed that there are no such organizations or names in the country on lists related to terrorist activities.”Another activist, Hassan Ali Mushaima, 53, said that in his 10-minute meeting Tuesday, authorities mentioned the Hezbollah militant group, U.S. President George W. Bush’s recent State of the Union address and a list of 99, saying, “your name is one of them.”Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, considered terrorists by the United States and freedom fighters by many Arabs and Persians, are backed by Iran. Bahraini Shiites, a majority of the island nation’s half-million population, share their branch of Islam with Shiite Iran, and during the uprising of the mid-1990s, Bahrain accused Iran of orchestrating a plot to overthrow the Sunni Muslim Bahraini government.In his State of the Union address, Bush said Iran was part of an “axis of terror” and repeated accusations Hezbollah was a terrorist organization.Sunday, Mushaima said he had determined his encounter with officials last week was “nothing serious.”

“We are willing to forget and put this behind us, but we hope it will not be repeated again,” Mushaima said. am/db

Bahrain says no nationals linked to terrorism

MANAMA, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Bahrain has said it warned Islamic activists about international probes into terror groups after the September 11 attacks on the United States, but insisted no Bahrainis were on any U.S. blacklist.An official statement carried by the Bahrain News Agency late on Wednesday said authorities had “cautioned some citizens” about international requests to check on suspects linked to terror groups which may be based in the Gulf Arab state.”Bahrain has displayed cooperation in this respect, and has confirmed that none of the groups or the names on the list said to be related to terrorist activities are in the country,” an Interior Ministry official was quoted as saying in the statement.Bahrain, the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has condemned the September attacks on New York and Washington, and pledged support for the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign.Bahrain’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, has launched political reforms to reunite the small island state after four years of anti-government unrest by the majority Shi’ite community, including pardoning political prisoners.Three prominent Shi’ite Muslim activists said on Wednesday a Bahraini official had warned them and several others they might be arrested by U.S. authorities on terror charges if they travelled abroad.They said they were told their names were on a U.S. list of 99 activists suspected of having links with terrorism.The U.S. embassy said in a statement on Thursday: “There are currently no Bahraini institutions or citizens on either of these (terrorism) lists.”The Shi’ite activists included Abdul-Wahab Hussain and Hassan Mushaimea who were released last year after spending more than five years in jail for opposition activities.

Washington has placed Lebanon’s Shi’ite group Hizbollah on its terrorism list. U.S. President George W. Bush bracketed North Korea, Iraq and Iran together as “sponsors of terrorism” in his State of the Union address last week. Iran has close ties with many Shi’ite militants across the region.

30,000 Families Benefit From Emir of Bahrain’s Grants

February 7, 2002 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) — Bahraini housing minister sheikh Khaled bin Abdullah al Khalifa said Wednesday that housing grants of the emir of Bahrain to over 30, 000 Bahraini families amounted to over 172 million Bahraini dinars.The ministry of housing will begin handing out property deeds to over 6,000 beneficiary families right away, he said, according to the official news agency GNA.These families will get their homes free and clear of any more mortgage payments, he said, adding that the emiri grants aimed in general to reduce or eradicate mortgage payments of these families. The grants were announced on Tuesday by the emir himself sheikh Hamad Ben Issa Al Khalifa.Moreover, the housing minister disclosed that a project involving the establishment of four new towns would be forthcoming in order to absorb the housing demands of the expanding Bahraini population.The four towns would be located near Muharrq, Manama, and Sitra regions and would address the housing needs of about 50,000 families, he said.The government, he said, is doing its utmost to accommodate the housing requirements of all of its citizens, be that! through reduction of mortgage payments, or writing off such payments altogether, or building new towns and neighborhoods. (

6 February 2002

Bahraini Shiite activists told they are named in a US blacklist


Associated Press WriterMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Prominent Shiite Muslim activists said Wednesday they were summoned by local authorities who warned them their names appeared on a blacklist of 99 Bahrainis prepared by the United States after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.However, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Donna Winton said she was unaware of any Bahraini individuals or institutions on U.S. lists.”The terrorism list is constantly being reviewed and updated and, to the best of our knowledge, there are no Bahrainis listed on it as of this time,” Winton said.In prepared comments to The Associated Press, a Bahraini government official said Bahrain had summoned an unspecified number of Bahrainis “as a result of the United States’ request, in which it asked Bahrain to cooperate in identifying any suspects who might be part of organizations in connection with terrorism.”Asked about the list mentioned by those summoned and to clarify its origin, the official would not comment beyond his prepared remarks.Mohammed Jamil al-Jamri and other Shiite Muslim activists told The Associated Press that more than a dozen of them were summoned Tuesday by Gov. Sheik Abdulaziz Al Khalifa.He and Hassan Ali Mushaima said Bahraini intelligence chief Sheik Khalid bin Mohammed bin Salman Al Khalifa told them their names were on a U.S. list, that they were only safe in Bahrain and that they risked being arrested while traveling abroad.”This has come as a shock to us, and it’s totally ridiculous,” said al-Jamri, the 42-year-old son of a prominent Bahraini Shiite cleric. “We are looking for a lot of answers and explanation as to what is this list about and how and why our names have turned up on such a list.”Mohamed Jamil al-Jamri is the eldest son of Sheik Abdul-Ameer al-Jamri, who spent 3 1/2 years in detention on charges of espionage and inciting unrest before being convicted in July 1999 and sentenced to 10 years. He was pardoned quickly after the conviction.The elder al-Jamri had been a rallying figure for a Shiite-led uprising in Bahrain in the mid-1990s.After a government crackdown ended the unrest, Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim leadership had been urging reconciliation with Shiite activists.Political prisoners, most notably Abdul-Ameer al-Jamri, were pardoned and authorities called on those living in exile to return home, suspend anti-government activities and rejoin society. Many did, encouraged by government pledges to institute democratic reforms.Those summoned Tuesday included Sheik Ali Salman, a fiery Shiite Muslim preacher, whose arrest in Dec. 1994 sparked street riots. It wasn’t known if the list included only Shiite Muslim activists.Hassan Ali Mushaima, 53, a close associate of the elder al-Jamri, said that in his 10-minute meeting authorities mentioned the Hezbollah militant group, U.S. President George W. Bush’s recent State of the Union address and the list of 99, saying, “your name is one of them.”Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, considered terrorists by the United States and freedom fighters by many Arabs and Persians, are backed by Iran. Bahraini Shiites, a majority of the island nation’s half-million population, share their branch of Islam with Shiite Iran, and during the uprising of the mid-1990s, Bahrain accused Iran of orchestrating a plot to overthrow the Sunni Muslim Bahraini government.”We have no connection with any group or any government outside Bahrain,” Mushaima said. “We have our own political agenda, which we discuss and carry out openly with the government.”Jamil al-Jamri’s younger brother, Mansoor al-Jamri, a former dissident who was not summoned, warned that any U.S. list of Bahrainis could easily spark anti-American sentiment in the country, which serves as a base for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.”It will be disastrous. They have picked up prominent names of people with followers,” Mansoor al-Jamri

Bahrain warns Islamists of U.S. terror listing

MANAMA, Feb 6 (Reuters) – Bahrain has warned several Muslim activists not to travel abroad, saying they may be arrested by U.S. authorities on terrorism charges, activists said on Wednesday.They said a dozen opposition Shi’ite Muslim activists, some of them Friday prayer leaders, were summoned by a Bahraini Interior Ministry official on Tuesday and told they were on a U.S. blacklist following the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.”I have a message to convey to you… There are around 100 people (Bahrainis) on a U.S. list, including you,” activist Hassan Mushaimea quoted the official as telling him.Two other activists in the Gulf Arab state contacted by Reuters said they received the same warning from the official.”You are safe inside Bahrain, but your safety outside is not guaranteed,” Mushaimea, who was freed last year after five years in jail for opposition activity, quoted the official as saying.The activists said they had no idea why their names would be included in such a list.A U.S. embassy spokeswoman said there were “no Bahraini individuals or institutions on the terrorism list at this time.” She declined to give further details.Bahrain, the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has condemned the September 11 attacks and has pledged support for the U.S.-led anti-terror war.The Gulf Arab state was shaken by four years of anti-government unrest in the 1990s by the majority Shi’ite community, demanding political and economic reforms from the Sunni Muslim-led government.

Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Kahlifa has launched landmark political reforms to reunite the small island state, including pardoning hundreds of political prisoners and allowing exiles to return.

3 January 2002

Bahraini journalists move to create independent union

By ADNAN MALIKAssociated Press WriterMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Disappointed by their current association, a group of Bahraini journalists elected a committee Sunday to set up an independent union.”It’s high time we have a body like that,” said Mohammed Fadhel, the journalist who was chosen to head the six-member committee.More than 30 journalists took part in the election of the committee, which includes three women.”We feel that the existing body is not really representing the true sense of a journalist association,” Fadhel said of the Bahrain Journalist Association.Fadhel, who has written for Arabic-language newspapers in the tiny Gulf island state for the past 20 years, said the association is inhibited from taking strong positions by its membership, which is open to publishers and Information Ministry employees.”We want to establish a committee that believes in the rights of journalists, protects the profession and protects its dignity,” said Amira al-Hussaini, a female member of the committee.”We want to make the best of atmosphere of openness prevailing in the country,” al-Hussaini said, referring to the greater freedom conferred since the emir, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, took office in 1999 on the death of his father.Last month, a Bahraini court overturned an information ministry ban on the work of a Bahraini free-lance journalist, Hafedh ash-Shaikh Saleh. In November, the ministry banned Saleh, who writes under the byline Hafedh ash-Shaikh, from writing for the Arabic-language daily Akhbar al-Khaleej, claiming his articles incited division.Committee members said, speaking on condition of anonymity, that the journalists’ association failed to stand up for Saleh.A spokesman for the Bahrain Journalist Association, Salman al-Ajmi, accepted the body had not defended Saleh, but declined to give a reason. Later al-Ajmi called The Associated Press to say the association did not stand up for Saleh because he was not a member.Last month, the government gave its go-ahead for the first independent newspaper to be published in the tiny Gulf island state. The new publisher is a former dissident.Bahrain has four daily newspapers — two English, two Arabic — all government-controlled.The island experienced political violence in the mid-1990s when Shiite Muslims, who make up a slight majority of the 500,000 citizens, began a campaign for political freedom. More than 40 people were killed and hundreds jailed.The Shiites felt they did not enjoy economic and social parity with Sunni Muslims, the mainstream Muslim sect to which the ruling family belongs.

In the past two years, the government has begun to implement reforms that meet some of the Shiite demands. A new national charter has been proclaimed, paving the way for restoring an elected parliament and a free press.

Jobless Bahrainis demonstrate outside prime ministe…

3 Feb 2002

By ADNAN MALIKAssociated Press WriterMANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Nearly 300 unemployed Bahrainis marched Sunday to the prime minister’s office, demanding jobs, and quietly dispersed after securing his promise to help.The protesters, most of them graduates and about a third of them women, marched through downtown Manama, disrupting traffic on their way to the heavily guarded office of Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.Four representatives were invited inside to meet with Sheik Khalifa. After an hour-long meeting, the four emerged.”The prime minister met us openheartedly and has promised to find a quick solution to our problem,” Mohammed Mirza, one of the representatives, told the crowd over a microphone.Mirza, whose comment drew light cheers and questions from the murmuring crowd, urged protesters to be patient and “wait for the government to deliver.”Yasser al-Nasser, secretary-general for the Cabinet of ministers confirmed Sheik Khalifa had pledged to help the citizens find job.In June, the government launched a dlrs 66 million program to train and find jobs for thousands of citizens. The efforts appeared to be appreciated, with many protesters holding posters of Bahraini rulers along with their banners demanding jobs.But unemployment long has been a problem in Bahrain. It was one factor in a wave of unrest in the Gulf island state in the mid-1990s, when Shiite Muslims claimed job discrimination in a nation governed by rulers from Islam’s larger Sunni branch. Most of the unemployed protesters Saturday were Shiites.Though public protest has waned since the days of the uprising, unemployed Bahrainis lately have been testing talk of greater freedoms. Last month, a similar but smaller protest of 150 unemployed Bahrainis was held in Bahrain’s commercial district.About 15,000 Bahraini citizens are registered as jobseekers, of whom 60 percent are women. The unofficial unemployment figure is, however, believed to include more than 20,000 people.”We are thankful to Sheik Khalifa for listening to us and we hope he lives up to his word,” said Fatima Makhlouq, 30, who is seeking a teaching job.”We are desperate for what is our right,” added Khulood al-Tahoo, a 33-year-old unemployed teacher.

Iran says worried about US presence in AfghanistanDOHA, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Iran’s defence minister said on Sunday his country was worried about the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and dismissed as baseless U.S. reports that Iran was interfering in Afghan affairs or harbouring al Qaeda fighters.”Originally, the U.S. had said it would leave Afghanistan soon after the war against the Taliban was over. But now they are bringing new ideas, propositions and it seems they intend to maintain their presence in the region,” Ali Shamkhani said.”It is certainly a matter of worry for us,” he told reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Qatar.The United States launched its military campaign in Afghanistan in October to flush out Saudi-born Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda group, blamed by Washington for the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities, and to punish their Taliban protectors.The head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said last week Washington was worried that al Qaeda operatives had escaped Afghanistan through Iran. Earlier this month U.S. President George W. Bush warned Tehran not to destabilise the new Afghan government or harbour fleeing al Qaeda members.Iranian authorities have emphatically denied helping al Qaeda members to escape from Afghanistan or seeking to undermine the interim Afghan government.”It is one of those usual false allegations…Our borders are firmly secure and impregnable,” Shamkani said.”We are fully supporting the interim government and we want peace and stability in Afghanistan. We are not arming any group,” he said.The United States was Iran’s chief ally until the 1979 Islamic revolution overthrew the late Shah. But the two countries broke ties in 1980 after revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took its staff hostage.Shamkhani told Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani during his visit that Iran wanted to extend military cooperation with the six Gulf Cooperation Council states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.Non-Arab Iran opposes the deployment of U.S. and Western forces in the Gulf region and is keen to sign defence agreements with its Gulf Arab neighbours. But Gulf Arab states, which look to the West for military support, have declined Iran’s offer.Ties between Iran and Gulf states have improved in recent years.


DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Sunday his country is in full control of its border with Afghanistan and rejected U.S. accusations that al-Qaida members were sheltering in Iran.Earlier this month, U.S. President George W. Bush warned Iran against harboring al-Qaida fighters fleeing Afghanistan. Washington officials cited intelligence reports that Tehran was providing sanctuary for a small number of al-Qaida fighters.The United States, which led the military campaign that toppled the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, also has warned Iran to stay out of Afghan politics. U.S. officials cited reports that Tehran is sending pro-Iranian Afghan fighters and money into Afghanistan to back allied factions and co-religionists of the Shiite Muslim minority.Shamkhani on Sunday reiterated Iran’s rejection of the charges.”Iran is in full control of its border. The accusations are not true. No member of al-Qaida or Taliban infiltrated into Iran,” Shamkhani said. “Iran had faced difficulties during the rule of the Taliban, which precludes any cooperation.”Iran, which shares a 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) border with western Afghanistan, has in the past supported Taliban opponents and has pledged to back the Kabul’s interim government.Iran has reinstated visa requirements for Gulf Arabs to remove the possibility of al-Qaida members infiltrating the country. Iran said it was also canceling a year-old visa waiver for Gulf Cooperation Council members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, beginning Jan. 21.Shamkhani said “current security conditions” dictated the visa restrictions and denied that Iran had caught any Gulf nationals belonging to al-Qaida.Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He and many of his followers are Arab and remain on the run or in hiding since the Taliban fell.Although Washington accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism worldwide, Iranians and Americans found themselves united in toppling the Taliban.

Shamkhani is on the first visit by an Iranian defense minister to Qatar in more than six years. He called for expanded military cooperation with other Arab countries across the Gulf.

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