GCC forces back Bahrain’s troops

Saudi Arabia renews rejection against interference in its affairs, says its response to Bahrain’s request falls within GCC framework

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques chairs National Security Council meeting

King of Bahrain discusses developments with Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Qatari PM

UAE sends security forces to Bahrain

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chaired the Cabinet session held at Al-Yamamah Palace.

At the outset of the session, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques thanked Allah Almighty for the blessings He bestowed on this country, including the blessing of security; stability; close relationship between the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership; and established relationships with various countries of the world based on mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs.

Emanating from these grounds, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques emphasized the Kingdom's rejection of any interference in its internal affairs that would affect the interests of the homeland, its citizens and its systems which stem from the Holy Quran and Sunnah and aim to maintain the security, stability and integrity of the Saudi society and to keep it away from sedition.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques said 'Since the unification of this State by the late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud, the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have shown in various circumstances and events their wisdom and loyalty, and that they are at the top of cohesion with their leadership. Therefore, it is not a surprise that they are not fooled by the attempts of hate-mongers, since the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia realize the objectives behind such false calls that violate the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah.' The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques thanked the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their adherence to the Holy Quran and Sunnah and for their keenness on their Islamic values as well as the unity of their homeland.

Then, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques briefed the Cabinet on the contacts and consultations that took place during the past seven days on the developments at Arab, regional and international arenas, including the two telephone calls he received from King Juan Carlos of Spain and President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) following the session, the Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz bin Mohieddin Khoja said that the Cabinet reviewed a number of reports on regional and international developments, renewing the Kingdom's firm stances towards them.

The Cabinet emphasized the statement issued by the Ministerial Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Member States during its 118th session which stressed that the GCC member states and their peoples are categorically rejecting any foreign interference in their affairs and that they will be facing with determination whoever attempts to flare sectarian strife between the GCC member states and their peoples, or to threaten their security and interests. Harming the security of any state of the GCC member states is a harm of the security of all GCC member states. In this context, the Cabinet confirmed its response to Bahrain's request for support in this regard.

The Minister of Culture and Information said the Cabinet expressed the Kingdom's condolences and sympathies to the Emperor and people of Japan on the victims of the earthquake that struck their country causing deaths, casualties and missing people.

Dr. Khoja pointed out that the Cabinet addressed a number of scientific, cultural and economic activities held in the Kingdom during the past few days, including the opening of the Sixth GCC Municipal Work Conference by the Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior who also patronized the awarding ceremony of 33rd King Faisal International Prize for the year 2011. The Cabinet also addressed the activities of First Saudi Forum on Downstream Petrochemical and Mineral Industrial as well as the Symposium on The Role of Arab Universities in Promoting Islamic Moderation among Arab Youth. The Cabinet stressed that such functions reflect that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become a desired destination for scientific, economic and cultural activities.

Dr. Khoja said the Cabinet then reviewed a number of issues on its agenda and issued the following decisions:

The Cabinet approved the organizational arrangements for water plants.

The Cabinet approved amending Article (13) of the Regulation of Members and Staff of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution to fall in tandem with Article (44) of the Judicial Law.

The Cabinet approved the Kingdom's accession to the amendment (Protocol) to the International Convention on the simplification and harmonization of Customs Procedures (Kyoto Convention), the text of the Convention (Attachment 1), the General Annex (Attachment 2) and the Special Annex (A).

The Cabinet authorized the Governor of Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC)-or his deputy-to discuss with the Finnish side and sign a draft memorandum of understanding in the field of technical and vocational training between the TVTC of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Finland.

The Cabinet approved a memorandum of understanding in the field of Peaceful Uses of Outer Space between King Abdulaziz City for Sciences and Technology of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Indian Space Research Organization of the Republic of India which was signed in Riyadh on 28/02/2010.

The Cabinet approved a number of appointments as follows:

1- Rashid bin Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri appointed to the post of Director General of Legal Affairs and International Cooperation (Rank 15) at the Ministry of Interior.

2- Mustafa bin Mohammed Habib bin Hassan Kauther appointed to the post of Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

3- Saad bin Ali bin Abdulrahman Al-Udan appointed to the post of Director General of Administrative Affairs (Rank 14) at the Armed Forces' General Staff.

4- Mohammed bin Ibrahim bin Abdulrahman Al-Hassan appointed to the post of Tax Counselor (Rank 14) at the Department of Zakat and Income Tax.

5- Fahd bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Jarallah appointed to the post of Director General of the Office of the President of Control and Investigation Board (Rank 14) at the Control and Investigation Board.

Meanwhile, King Abdullah chaired a meeting of National Security Council in Riyadh, the Royal Court reported. During the meeting, attended by all members of the Council, all matters on the table concerning the country's national security were reviewed.

Concluding the meeting, the monarch, who is the Chief of the National Security Council, gave instructions to all members, each according to the matter he is in charge of.

Bahrain's king declared martial law Tuesday as his government struggled to quell an uprising by the island's Shiite Muslim majority that has drawn in troops from fellow Sunni-ruled neighbor Saudi Arabia.

The three-month state of emergency will hand wholesale power to Bahrain's security forces, which are dominated by the country's Sunni Muslim elite, stoking sectarian tensions in one of the Gulf's most politically volatile nations.

Disturbances continued to shake the kingdom through the day.

A hospital source said two men, one Bahraini and the other Bangladeshi, were killed in clashes in the Shiite area of Sitra and more than 200 people were wounded in various incidents. State television said a Bahraini policeman was also killed.

The United States, a close ally of both Bahrain and Saudi, said it was concerned about reports of growing sectarianism in the country, which is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, and called for political dialogue to resolve the crisis.

"One thing is clear, there is no military solution to the problems in Bahrain," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

It was not clear if a curfew would be imposed or whether there would be any clampdown on media or public gathering. "In order for the situation to return to normal we have to establish order and security and ... stop the violations which have spread disturbances among the people of our dear country," said Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed al-Khalifa.

Monday, more than 1,000 Saudi troops rolled into the kingdom in a long convoy of armored vehicles at the request of Bahrain's Sunni rulers, flashing victory signs as they crossed the causeway that connects the two oil producers. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar have said they would also send police.

Thousands of Bahrainis marched on the Saudi embassy in Manama Tuesday to protest against the intervention.

"People are angry we want this occupation to end. We don't want anybody to help the al-Khalifa or us," said a protester who gave his name as Salman, referring to the ruling family.

Analysts said the troop movement showed concern in Saudi Arabia that any concessions could inspire the conservative Sunni-ruled kingdom's own Shiite minority.

Over 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shiites who complain of discrimination at the hands of the Sunni royal family. Calls for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed the Sunni minority, which fears that unrest could serve non-Arab Shiite power Iran.

Iran, which sits across the Gulf from Bahrain, sharply criticized the decision to send in Saudi troops.

"The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain's internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference in Tehran.

A Bahraini foreign ministry official called the remarks a "blatant interference in Bahrain's internal affairs," the state news agency BNA said, adding that Manama had recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations.

Bahrain's largest Shiite Muslim opposition group, Wefaq, condemned the imposition of martial law and called for international intervention. "The army is in control of society now," said Jasim Hussein, a Wefaq politician.

Bahrain has been gripped by its worst unrest since the 1990s after protesters took to the streets last month, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.

Unlike those countries, where the mainly Sunni populations united against the regime, Bahrain is split along sectarian lines, raising the risk of a slide into civil conflict.

Violent clashes between youths wielding clubs, knives and rocks have become daily occurrences, forcing Bahrain University and many schools to close in order to avoid further trouble.

The United States has urged Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, to show restraint, though analysts said the escalation showed the limits of U.S. influence when internal security was threatened.

The United Nations and Britain echoed the call for restraint and the Group of Eight powers expressed concern.

In a sign that security could deteriorate, the U.S. State Department advised against all travel to Bahrain due to a "breakdown in law and order."

Underlining the growing tensions, armed youths attacked the printing press of Bahrain's only opposition newspaper Al Wasat overnight in an effort to stop its publication.

Metal barricades and piles of sand and rocks blocked the main thoroughfare to the financial district and most shops in Bahrain were shut.

"We are staying peacefully. Even if they attack we are peaceful," said Ali Mansoor, an activist at Manama's Pearl roundabout, where thousands of protesters have camped out.

Around Bahrain, residents have placed skips, bins and pieces of metal on the road, to prevent strangers from entering their neighborhoods. Young men, some wearing masks and carrying sticks, guarded the entrances to their areas.

The United Arab Emirates has decided to join the Gulf contingent being sent to neighboring Bahrain to help restore security, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash said.

“The UAE has decided to send a security force ... in response to a request by the sisterly kingdom of Bahrain to help and participate in strengthening security and internal stability,” Gargash said.

“The United Arab Emirates affirms that this step represents a lively embodiment of its commitment to brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The regional security and stability at this time requires us all to unite our ranks to protect achievements, keep sectarian strife away as well as to lay foundations for the future,” Gargash added.

“This is based on the United Arab Emirates’ belief in the solid historic relations, fraternal ties, kinship and common destiny that the Arab GCC member states share. It also comes in light of the sublime principles which the GCC Charter established, affirms the commitment of GCC member states to close ranks against any dangers facing them and considers the stability and security of GCC member states as one indivisible whole and also as a commitment to conventions and defense and security treaties,” he said.

Gargash also noted that the UAE follows with concern the developments in Bahrain, in particular the national dialogue initiative launched by Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain and Deputy Supreme Commander.

“The UAE calls on all the Bahraini people to respond positively and without prior conditions to this invitation to contribute to the reduction of tension, end the current crisis and find suitable solutions that would preserve the achievements of the brotherly Bahraini people,” Gargash noted.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has sent security forces into Bahrain on Monday to help restore security. About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government facilities, a Saudi official source said.

Saudi Arabia said it had responded to a security threat in Bahrain. “The Council of Ministers has confirmed that it has answered a request by Bahrain for support,” the government said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency. It said that under an agreement of the six-country GCC, “any harm done to the security of a member state is considered a harm done to the security of all members”.

“They are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council force that would guard the government installations,” the source said.