Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Obama Attempts to Secretly Meet Bahrain’s Crown Prince

Wall Street Journal
By Carol E. Lee and Jay Solomon

President Barack Obama will meet with the crown prince of Bahrain at the White House on Tuesday, an administration official said. But in a show of how delicate relations with the U.S. ally have become, the sit-down is not officially on the president’s schedule.

Instead Mr. Obama will “drop by” a meeting that Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has Tuesday afternoon with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, the administration official said.

The White House said last week that senior officials would use Prince Salman’s visit to push for political reforms in Bahrain, where the government’s harsh response to uprisings has created a diplomatic challenge for Washington, because of the Khalifa family’s role in helping U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and Iran’s nuclear program.

Last week, a senior administration official said the White House views Prince Salman as “a serious interlocutor” and believes there is “value in engaging with him directly.” The official said the White House sees as a “positive sign” the recent call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa for a national dialogue.

In a speech at the State Department last month, Mr. Obama criticized the crackdown in Bahrain, including the government’s detainment of hundreds of political prisoners.

It is unclear how long the president will spend with the crown prince on Tuesday. The White House does not plan to open any portion of the meeting to media coverage. The administration official said the White House will issue a written statement afterwards.

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