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06MANAMA164 2006-02-06 09:36:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manama
Cable title:  

AMBASSADOR'S FEBRUARY 4 MEETING WITH PM SHAIKH

Tags:   PGOV ECON ETRD BA BILAT OFFICIALS ECTRD POL 
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1. (C) In their February 4 meeting, Prime Minister Shaikh
Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and the Ambassador discussed
Ashoura processions and the appearance of posters of foreign
Shia leaders, rule of law, Commerce Secretary Gutierrez's
upcoming visit, and U.S.-Bahrain free trade agreement (FTA)
promotion and implementation, among other subjects. The PM's
son, Deputy PM and Minister of Transportation Shaikh Ali bin
Khalifa, also participated in the meeting. The PM opened the
meeting by noting he had just left his "majles," an open
session he holds several times a week for citizens to come
and discuss their problems and issues directly with him.



2. (C) Shaikh Khalifa said that, in the run up to the
celebration of Ashoura, photographs and posters of Ayatollah
Khamenei had begun to appear in Shia villages, as they did
last year. (Note: Emboffs and local staff have not yet
noticed any posters.) He supported citizens' right to
practice their religion, but they should not ally themselves
with foreign political leaders. The PM continued with a
theme he said he had just discussed with participants in his
majles. He emphasized that the rule of law must be applied
uniformly across the country. He was unhappy with the
Minister of Justice's application of the law, saying that
when a Bahraini traveled abroad, he respected the laws of
that country. The same should happen inside the country.
(Comment: While he did not explain fully, we believe he was
referring to the Ministry of Interior and Justice's decisions
not to prosecute some Shia youth who have been involved in
periodic clashes with police since the end of November 2005.)



3. (C) The Ambassador told the PM that Commerce Secretary
Gutierrez would visit Bahrain February 26-27 to promote the
FTA. The PM said that the timing of the trip was very good
and would enhance the already strong relations between the
two countries. He hoped that the agreement would lead to
more joint ventures between American and Bahraini companies,
which would generate additional jobs and training
opportunities for Bahraini workers. There are many business
opportunities in Bahrain, and now is the time to act to
exploit them.



4. (C) The Ambassador said that the USG hoped the FTA would
enter into force on April 1 and asked about the status of
intellectual property rights legislation needed to implement
the agreement. Shaikh Ali said that the prime ministry's
legal affairs committee was examining the draft laws and the
cabinet planned to move them to parliament very soon. The PM
said the GOB wanted to implement the FTA as soon as possible
and strengthen bilateral trade and investment relations.

MONROE