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Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 09:55

Bahrain asks US diplomat to leave

By Associated Press

 Bahrain asks US diplomat to leave
This undated photo posted on the US State Department website shows Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary ofState for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. (Photo / AP)

MANAMA, Bahrain - Bahrain ordered a top US diplomat to leave the country on Monday after he met with a leading Shi'ite opposition group.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski is not welcome in Bahrain. It said he intervened in the country's domestic affairs by holding meetings with some groups at the expense of others.

Bahrain, a tiny island nation that is home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet, has been roiled by near-daily protests by Shi'ites seeking greater political rights and inspired by the Arab Spring wave of revolutions since early 2011. The Bahrain government moved to crush the uprising, which threatened to spill into neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries with Shiite populations, with the help of regional Gulf Arab forces.

Malinowski was ordered to leave after meeting with Bahrain's Shi'ite opposition group, Al Wifaq. He arrived in the country Sunday and had been scheduled to stay for three days.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a a statement, the US is "deeply concerned'' by the demand for Malinowski to leave Bahrain immediately. She said his visit had been warmly welcomed and that Bahrain's government "is well aware that US government officials routinely meet with all officially recognized political societies.''

Repeated rounds of political talks have since failed to significantly close the rifts between the country's Sunni monarchy and majority Shi'ite factions.

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry said the kingdom's relations with the United States remain strong and important but such meetings were divisive. His actions, added the statement, "run counter to conventional diplomatic norms.''

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