Gulf | Bahrain

UK points finger at Iran in Bahrain unrest

Envoy praises Bahrain’s progress towards reform and criticises Human Rights Watch

  • Gulf News Report
  • Published: 16:16 March 26, 2013
  • Gulf News

Dubai: The British ambassador in Bahrain has blamed Iran for supporting violence in Bahrain and has censured a human rights organisation for criticising the kingdom, according to Bahraini media.

In an interview with local Gulf Daily News, parts of which were also carried by the official Bahrain News Agency, British ambassador in Manama, Iain Lindsay, was quoted as saying that there was “increasing evidence” that Iran was “providing support to people here who are bent on violence”.

The ambassador did not elaborate on the evidence or the type of support Iran is alleged to have provided, but he said that the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), which has been conducting an inquiry into the UK’s relationship with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, had been made aware of it.

The inquiry has been controversial, with Saudi Arabia saying it was “insulted” by it, prompting it to re-evaluate their country’s relations with Britain, noting that “all options will be looked at”, according to British media. “We condemn Iran’s meddling here and indeed elsewhere and we firmly believe that Bahrain will make progress if Bahrain is given a chance and Bahrainis are given a chance themselves to resolve their problems,” he said. “There are people in the country who are opposed to dialogue, who see it as a sideshow or irrelevant”.

He also stressed the need for the police to exercise “maximum restraint” when responding to violence.

“We regret that when things flare up there have been deaths, which is a tragedy, and inevitably when there are deaths that leads to more violence... But I would say that we have, in general, seen greater restraint [from law enforcement authorities],” he said.

He also had strong words for those behind recent attempts to plan bombs in the country. “I think people who plant bombs which are aimed at indiscriminately killing people are terrorists, full stop... If you plant a bomb in a rubbish bin and you don’t really care who is going to pick it up or who is going to be killed, that is by any international standards terrorism.” Lindsay told Gulf Daily News.

Lindsay described a recent report by US-based Human Rights Watch that criticised the national dialogue that was recently launched in the kingdom as “deeply unhelpful, condescending and patronising”.

“As far as the HRW report was concerned we would disagree with their conclusion that there had been no progress on reform,” he told the daily.

“I don’t think that accurately reflects what happened here or is happening here and I find their comments about the political dialogue deeply unhelpful.

“I think it has taken a lot of courage and a lot of effort to get people for the first time in two years to sit around a table to talk about dialogue.

“That is no mean feat, that is a significant step, and to essentially pooh-pooh that and say these people are wasting their time I think is deeply unhelpful, condescending and patronising... I thought that was really wide off the mark... I don’t think this is a mirage or some sort of theatrical performance — this is sincere and it’s real,” he said.

“Sure, there are concerns on human rights issues here and we have made those concerns very clear in public and in private, but I think we need to take a balanced picture,” he added.

Bahrain and the UK enjoy a long standing relationship. In December, Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa singled out Britain as a country he will be “personally eternally grateful” to for standing by Bahrain during difficult times.

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