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US will wait for inquiry before approving Bahrain arms

The United States State Department has said that they will await the results of an inquiry into human rights abuses in Bahrain, before proceeding with a $53 million arms deal.

The move comes as the US deal has come under increased scrutiny from human rights groups and US lawmakers, who opposed the sale.

After intense international pressure Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa commissioned an inquiry into human rights abuses in the country, as protests that erupted eight months ago sparked a brutal crackdown by the ruling regime.

In a letter to Congress, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs David Adams said,

"The department will review the commission's findings carefully and assess the government of Bahrain's efforts to implement the recommendations and make needed reforms. We will weigh these factors and confer with Congress before proceeding with additional steps related to the recently notified arms sale.”

He went on to say that the US would push to "hold accountable those who have committed human rights violations, implement needed reforms and engage its citizens and be responsive to their aspirations."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner also commented that,

"We're going to continue to take human rights considerations into account as we move toward the finalization of this deal."

The proposed sale has been criticised by Human Rights Watch, whose deputy Washington director Maria McFarland said,

"Bahrain has taken no meaningful steps towards accountability. And Bahrain's rulers will have little reason to really reform so long as their main international ally resumes arms sales as if the situation were back to normal."

Britain, which has also been condemned for its weapons export policy, last week announced changes to the export rules, that would allow an immediate suspension of arms licenses to states that had experienced a severe deterioration in stability.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said,

"The Government is determined to learn the wider lessons of events in the Middle East and North Africa."

Both the US and Britain have been criticised by Amnesty International for their arms exports. Sanjeev Bery, the group’s advocacy director for Middle East and North Africa said,

"To the extent that arms transfers are knowingly engaged in and result in the perpetration of crimes against humanity, the transferring state also becomes responsible under international law."

See our earlier posts:

'US lawmakers push to halt arms sales to Bahrain'
(Oct 2011)

'UK weapons and Sri Lanka’s war crimes against Tamils' (June 2011)

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