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Some Saudi troops in Bahrain may be UK-trained, says minister

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, May 25, IRNA -- Saudi troops dispatched to help quell pro-democracy protests in Bahrain may include numbers who were trained by Britain, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey has acknowledged.

“It is possible that some members of the Saudi Arabian National Guard which were deployed in Bahrain may have undertaken some training provided by the British military mission,” Harvey said.

“The Ministry of Defence has extensive and wide-ranging bilateral engagement with Saudi Arabia in support of the government's wider foreign policy goals,” he said.

In a written parliamentary reply published Wednesday, Harvey confirmed that the Ministry of Defence's engagement with Saudi Arabia includes training provided to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, delivered through the British mission.

MPs have raised a series of concerns about the role of Saudi troops deployed in Bahrain, including reports that they have been involved in abuses and in the transfer of some prisoners to Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with IRNA last week, Foreign Office spokesman Barry Marston insisted he had seen no evidence that the activity of the forces from the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council has gone “beyond protecting key installations.”

Marston also disputed testimony from protesters that British arms have been used against demonstrations, further saying he had “no evidence to suggest that United Kingdom supplied equipment has been used during the recent protests in Bahrain.”

A group of MPs, led by Labour representative Katy Clark, have been calling on the UK government to pressure Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to end “their repressive measures” in Bahrain by suspending arms sales to both countries.

At the end of March, Harvey confirmed that the British Military Mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard “continues to operate as an essential part of our bilateral relationship.”

“Training forms an integral part of the British Military Mission's activity,” he said, but refused to provide a breakdown of military programmes and whether it included internal security training, saying it was not possible to do so “without prejudicing relations between the UK and other states.”

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