MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain ordered a top U.S. diplomat to leave the country on Monday after he met with a leading Shiite opposition group.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski is not welcome in Bahrain. It said he intervened in the country's domestic affairs by holding meetings with some groups at the expense of others.
Bahrain, a tiny island nation that is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, has been roiled by near-daily protests by Shiites seeking greater political rights and inspired by the Arab Spring wave of revolutions since early 2011. The Bahrain government moved to crush the uprising, which threatened to spill into neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries with Shiite populations, with the help of regional Gulf Arab forces.
Malinowski was ordered to leave after meeting with Bahrain's Shiite opposition group, Al Wifaq. He arrived in the country Sunday and had been scheduled to stay for three days.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that Malinowski is still in Bahrain.
She said Malinowski was on a visit to reaffirm and strengthen bilateral ties and support King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's reform and reconciliation efforts, particularly in light of events elsewhere in the region.
In a statement later Monday with more details, Psaki said the U.S. is "deeply concerned" by the demand for Malinowski to leave Bahrain immediately. She said his visit had been warmly welcomed and that Bahrain's government "is well aware that U.S. government officials routinely meet with all officially recognized political societies."
"Contrary to our longstanding bilateral relationship and in violation of international diplomatic protocol, the government insisted — without advance warning and after his visit had already commenced — to have a Foreign Ministry representative present at all of Assistant Secretary Malinowski's private meetings with individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of Bahraini society, including those held at the U.S. embassy," Psaki said. "These actions are not consistent with the strong partnership between the United States and Bahrain."