Bahrain Denies New Saudi Deployments
After renewed protests last Friday which saw tens of thousands take to the streets, Bahraini officials deny new Saudi troop deployments
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 7/25/2011, 3:56 PM
Bahrain denied Monday reports Saudi Arabia had delployed more troops to the tiny island kingdom saying troops are merely being rotated, the Bahraini state news agency BNA reports.
Soldiers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed in in Bahrain in mid-March to help clear the streets of protesters who had been staging demonstrations since February.
The troops are a part of a Peninsula Shield force set up by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council for their mutual defence.
"The Peninsula Shield forces present in Bahrain reposition certain military units ... as part of a routine operation," BNA quoted a Bahraini defence official as saying.
Rumors of additional troop deployments to Bahrain came after the largest opposition party, Al Wefaq, decided to pull out of government-led national reform talks last week, which led to tens of thousands flooding onto the streets to protest after Friday afternoon Muslim prayers.
But a Reuters observer saw no troop movements on Saturday evening on a causeway joining Saudi Arabia to neighbouring Bahrain, and a Bahraini opposition spokesman declined to comment on reports fresh forces were being deployed.
The national-reform dialogue was initiated by Bahrain's rulers after four months of political unrest. In late June, a government source had said Saudi Arabia would withdraw most of its 1,000 troops from Bahrain.
Emergency rule, imposed in March, was lifted in June.