Britain urges restraint after Bahrain deaths

17th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Bahrain Thursday to exercise restraint after a deadly crackdown on protesters and urged its rulers to continue with a programme of reforms.

"We have conveyed our concern about these events and the level of violence to the government of Bahrain. We are greatly concerned about the deaths that have occurred," he told lawmakers.

In an apparent message to Iran, Hague also warned other nations not to meddle in the situation.

"We would strongly oppose any interference in the affairs of Bahrain by other nations or any action to inflame sectarian tensions between Bahrain's Sunni and Shia communities," he said.

Hague said he had spoken to the Bahraini foreign minister "to stress the need for peaceful action to address the concerns of protesters" and to respect the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression.

"We urge all sides to avoid violence and the police to exercise restraint," he added.

Riot police stormed through a Manama square early Thursday firing rubber bullets and tear gas in a harsh crackdown on anti-regime protesters that left four dead, witnesses and the opposition said.

Hague, who visited Bahrain last week as part of a tour of the Middle East, said the Gulf state had made "important political reforms" but urged it to go further.

"We will always encourage Bahrain and other countries to take further steps that meet legitimate aspirations for greater political and social freedoms," Hague said.

Britain has updated its travel advice to avoid all non-essential travel to Bahrain.

© 2011 AFP

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