Expelled US diplomat to return to Bahrain

AP News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2014 12:18 PM
Expelled US diplomat to return to Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A senior U.S. diplomat who was ordered to leave Bahrain after meeting with a leading Shiite opposition group was to return to the Gulf Arab country on Tuesday, five months after his expulsion.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski will be arriving to Bahrain on Tuesday and staying until Thursday. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson was also to be in Bahrain during that time.

The two are expected to meet with government officials, members of the opposition and civil society in the tiny Gulf nation that is home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

Bahrain has been roiled by low-level sectarian unrest since 2011, when protests by the Shiite majority erupted to demand greater political say in the Sunni-led monarchy.

Malinowski was asked to leave Bahrain during the second day of his visit in July. The expulsion came after he met with leading opposition members of the al-Wefaq group without a Bahraini government official present.

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry at the time said that he was not welcome to complete his three-day visit because he had intervened in the country's domestic affairs by holding divisive meetings that "run counter to conventional diplomatic norms."

Malinowski wrote on Twitter after his expulsion that the move appeared aimed at undermining reconciliation efforts between the government and the opposition.

The State Department said at the time that Malinowski had visited Bahrain to strengthen bilateral ties and support King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's reform and reconciliation efforts.

The al-Wefaq opposition bloc boycotted parliamentary and municipal elections that wrapped up over the weekend, which saw pro-government candidates win most of the seats.