GCC criticizes Beirut for Nasrallah's anti-Bahrain comments

Ambassadors summoned for 'hateful' speech after Salman's arrest

15 January, 16:02

    (by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) - DUBAI, JANUARY 15 - Oil-rich monarchies of the Gulf region have reacted with anger to the words and tone used by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in criticizing Bahrain's arrest and detention of Ali Salman, the leader of the Shia opposition party Al-Wefaq. Bahrain, the UAE, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have summoned Lebanese ambassadors in their nations in protest. The UAE expressed its ''severe condemnation of these hostile, inflammatory, hateful and unacceptable remarks, which represent blatant interference in Bahrain's internal affairs,'' said UAE foreign affairs undersecretary Tarek Ahmad.

    In a televised speech on Friday, the leader of the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah openly lashed out at Bahraini authorities for the arrest and detention of Salman, head of the largest opposition bloc in the country, accusing them of ''promoting violent political changes''. The Al-Wefaq leader's initial arrest on December 28 was extended for 15 days starting on January 1. The royal family of the small oil-rich emirate was accused of ''conducting a project on the Zionist model'' in Gulf states, giving citizenship and jobs to Sunni Muslims of other nationalities. This is not the first time that Bahrain has been accused of trying to alter the demographics of the country. Objections to the policy have repeatedly been raised by opposition groups in the small, Shia-majority emirate that is governed by the Al-Khalifa Sunni dynasty. Shias in the country have for years been reporting discrimination against them and policies that attempt to tip the demographic scales of the country in favor of Sunnis. The friction between the two Muslim sects has never disappeared and bouts of violence regularly flare up, especially since the Pearl Square demonstrations during the 2011 'Arab Spring' led to a hard-handed crackdown by the authorities, leaving at least 40 dead and hundreds of reports of mistreatment and abuse. Salman was arrested in late December for organizing a demonstration against the November elections - which both Al-Wefaq and other opposition movements boycotted - and demanding that the government and the parliament be dissolved. Bahrain reacted immediately to Nasrallah's words, and GCC secretary Abdul Latif Al Zayani and the UAE foreign minister soon followed suit. (ANSAmed).

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