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article imageSaudi Arabian troops cross over into Bahrain

By Lynn Herrmann     Mar 14, 2011 in Politics
Manama - In an attempt at stopping unrest in Bahrain, troops from Saudi Arabia were deployed into Bahrain on Monday, along with police officers from the United Arab Emirates, a move that opposition groups in the island nation call an “occupation.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the troop involvement comes after a request by Bahrain’s ruling family. Troops have established themselves at strategic points in the small island nation, including the neighborhood of the royal family’s home, witnesses and Western diplomats report.
The state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reports the troop deployment is seen as a move to protect order and security in Bahrain. “The move is in response to a request from the Kingdom of Bahrain for assistance and in contribution to maintaining security and stability,” said Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gergash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Protests in Bahrain have intensified in recent days, with anti-government demonstrators on Sunday setting up roadblocks to the financial district in the capital city of Manama. The move to send in troops is expected to escalate the unrest that began last month.
Shiite Muslims comprise about 70 percent of Bahrain’s population of 525,000. The Shiite majority have called for an elected government and an end to discrimination by Sunni rulers.
In a White House statement, Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, has urged caution over the matter of troop involvement by Saudi Arabia and other countries, suggesting they “show restraint and respect the rights of the people of Bahrain, and to act in a way that supports dialogue instead of undermining it,” the LA Times reports.
The opposition group in Bahrain sees troop and military vehicle arrivals as “an overt occupation of the kingdom of Bahrain and a conspiracy against the unarmed people of Bahrain,” the New York Times reports.
“We want a new constitution, fair and free elections and a government elected directly by the people,” said Mohammad Mattar, a member of the Waad pro-reform movement, according to the NY Times. “These are not sectarian demands, but political ones. We want a constitutional monarchy, a clear relationship between the ruling family and society. But the security forces are trying to create a sectarian divide,” he added.
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had visited Bahrain’s royal family on Saturday and said he had told them change was happening, and it “could be led or it could be imposed,” the NY Times notes.
“Obviously, leading reform and being responsive is the way we’d like to see this move forward,” he added.
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