Bahrain Insists it Allows Peaceful Protestsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Bahrain's foreign ministry has insisted it respects the right to hold peaceful protests in the Gulf state and that its security forces only intervene when demonstrations turn violent.
"The kingdom of Bahrain authorizes the peaceful expression of opinion within the constitution and the law," it said in a statement late Thursday in response to U.S. State Department concerns.
"The security forces exercise maximum restraint even though they are regularly the target of acts of violence," the ministry said. "But these forces reserve the right to take necessary measures in the face of any escalation in violence."
The State Department on Wednesday urged Bahrain to exercise restraint and allow peaceful protests, condemning a new outbreak of unrest in the U.S.-allied Sunni Muslim-led kingdom.
"We are deeply concerned about the increase in violence in Bahrain," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
"We condemn the use of violence in all its forms -- whether against peaceful demonstrators or police and government institutions -- and urge all parties to reject such actions," Nuland said in a statement.
"We call on the government of Bahrain to permit peaceful protest and to exercise maximum restraint in maintaining order, just as we call on all those demonstrating to do so peacefully," she said.
The Gulf state's Shiite majority holds regular protests against their alleged marginalization and disenfranchisement by the Sunni regime. A crackdown on protests last year left 35 dead, according to an independent probe.