Manama: Bahrain's foreign minister has denied rumours that King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa had met opposition figures during his official visit to Britain.
"HM the King did not meet them," Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said. "They are in London. HM the King of course never shut his door on anyone, but they never asked for a meeting and there were no arrangements," he told the London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat.
King Hamad met during his visit to the British capital David Cameron, the Prime Minister, Prince Charles and several dignitaries for talks on bilateral relations and developments in Manama. Britain has offered to help Bahrain implement reforms.
However, rumours spread in Bahrain that King Hamad would meet Ali Salman, the leader of Al Wefaq Islamic Society, and Abdul Lateef Al Mahmood, the leader of the National Unity Rally, who were in London at the same time.
"Allegations about a deal lack credibility. HM King Hamad was in London for high-level talks with British officials. If he were to meet Ali Salman or Abdul Lateef Al Mahmood, he would meet them in Bahrain. His majlis is open to both of them," Shaikh Khalid told the Saudi daily.
The minister also dismissed concerns by several Bahrainis that the government was moving towards Al Wefaq to put an end to the crisis that hit the country, and that it had no regard for the other components of the society.
"We have heard about these concerns, but are they genuine? The government has assumed its responsibilities to restore calm and order and everybody should always remember this. The government has not neglected anyone, but is working on solutions with those who have issues. There is a group that refuses the dialogue, talks. We need to address this issue. When the government says that mistakes have been committed, this does not mean that it is ignoring Sunnis," he said.
Shaikh Khalid in the interview rejected the monopoly of expression in either sect.
"There is not a single voice that speaks on behalf of the Sunnis, just like Al Wefaq does not represent all Shiites. These voices do not represent all views. Anything the government does now is interpreted on a sectarian basis," he said.
Bahrain has been socially fissured alongside sectarian lines since the two sects had divergent views on the merit of protests that erupted in February. A series of incidents exposed the chasm that was widening between them despite repeated calls for national unity.
Cherif Bassiouni, the Chairman of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, tasked by King Hamad to investigate the incidents that hit Bahrain in February and March and their consequences, told Gulf News in November that the two major sects needed to overcome their divergences and inner concerns urgently.
"My one wish for these two groups would be to share the belief that this is their country, that they can share in their country — they can have other identities so long as the sense of fundamental linkage is there," he said. "Right now I think a Shiite feels estranged in their own country. And I think Sunni feels threatened in their own country. The country is going to need to address the sense of threat and estrangement," he said, hours after submitting the commission report on the incidents to the king at a public ceremony.