Mullen Reaffirms American-Bahraini Alliance
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 25, 2011 – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen continued his visit to Bahrain today to reaffirm the U.S.-Bahraini relationship as the protest movement here entered its 12th day.
The chairman arrived in the Bahraini capital last night to meet with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and retired Maj. Gen. Abdullatif bin Rashed al-Zayani, the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general.
Mullen “reaffirmed our strong commitment to our military relationship with the Bahraini defense forces,” said Navy Capt. John Kirby, the admiral’s spokesman. The Crown Prince also serves as commander in chief of Bahrain’s defense force.
Kirby said the chairman also thanked Bahraini leaders “for the very measured way they have been handling the popular crisis here.” Mullen, the spokesman added, also solicited Bahraini leaders’ views and expressed appreciation for their insights and “how they are dealing with the changes they are making on behalf of their people.”
During last night’s sessions, the talks focused on the turmoil that has gripped Bahrain since the uprising began Feb. 14, including a police raid last week in Manama’s Pearl Square that left seven people dead.
Senior Bahraini leaders have since taken steps to avoid using violence against protesters and to address their concerns.
“The probe committee in charge of investigating the recent regrettable incident is continuing its work,” Hamad told Mullen during last night’s meeting, according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.
The king also stressed “firm keenness to ensure citizens’ safety and establish each party’s rights,” the report said.
Mullen reiterated his support for the crown prince’s order that security force not use force against the protestors and to call to engage in a multi-party national dialogue.
“I have great admiration for steps the crown prince has taken,” Mullen told reporters before landing here last night.
“I certainly decry the violence,” he emphasized. But “it’s a very important message that as soon as the forces went away, the violence went away. And I think that both sides responded in a way that ensured violence would not continue.”
“That doesn’t mean we don’t evaluate it,” he said.
At last night’s talks, Mullen praised the “giant leaps” Bahrain has taken over the past10 years under the king’s reform project, the Bahrain News Agency reported. He also stressed U.S. support for the bilateral partnership and friendship.
Bahrain is a critical, longtime ally and host to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Mullen told reporters yesterday, adding that he looks to that relationship continuing into the future.
Mullen was scheduled to visit Naval Support Activity Bahrain today for updates on Marine Expeditionary Brigade Bahrain operations and the work of the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment’s fleet antiterrorism security tam operations.
The chairman arrived in Manama last night for the sixth stop on his week-long trip through the region. Mullen told reporters he was focused on “reaffirming, reassuring and also trying to understand where the leaderships of these countries are going, and in particular in Bahrain."
Mullen said he “honestly never gave a second thought” to reconsidering the long-planned visit here after events here and elsewhere in the region, even in light of last week’s events.
Thousands of protestors reportedly staged another march just before the chairman arrived, and leading Shiite clerics had called for more demonstrations today to honor those killed last week.
The protestors, most of them from Bahrain’s majority Shiite population, are calling for the long-ruling minority Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy to step down.
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