Dubai: Bahrain has told a senior US diplomat, who has met with representatives of the country’s opposition, that he was “unwelcome” in the kingdom and should “leave immediately.”
The foreign ministry accused US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tom Malinowski, of meddling in Bahrain’s internal affairs, in a statement published by the official BNA state news agency.
The ministry said Malinowski met “with a particular party to the detriment of other interlocutors”, an apparent reference to the Shiite-led opposition in Sunni-ruled Bahrain.
The ministry added that Malinowski “is unwelcome and should immediately leave the country, due to his interference in its internal affairs,” the statement said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Malinowski “remains in Bahrain.”
“He is on a visit to reaffirm and strengthen our bilateral ties and to support his royal majesty King Hamad’s reform and reconciliation efforts at an important time, particularly given events elsewhere in the region,” she said.
She said Malinowski’s visit “had been coordinated far in advance and warmly welcomed and encouraged by the government of Bahrain, which is well-aware that US government officials routinely meet with all officially-recognized political societies.
“Contrary to our longstanding bilateral relationship and in violation of international diplomatic protocol, the government insisted – without advance warning and after his visit had already commenced – to have a Foreign Ministry representative present at all of Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s private meetings with individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of Bahraini society, including those held at the US embassy.”
She added: “These actions are not consistent with the strong partnership between the United States and Bahrain.”
Malinowski met leaders of the opposition, including cleric Ali Salman, the head of the main Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, which is an authorised political association,according to the group.
Al-Wefaq posted a picture of the meeting on its official Twitter account, showing Salman seated next to Malinowski and two other men with a flag of Al-Wefaq and a flag of Bahrain in the background.
Malinowski was the Washington Director for Human Rights Watch, a vocal critic of Manama’s crackdown on protests, until April when he became assistant secretary of state.
Shiite-led protests erupted in Bahrain – home base of the US Fifth Fleet – in February 2011, taking their cue from uprisings elsewhere in the region and demanding democratic reforms in the absolute monarchy.