April 12, 2011 / 6:21 PM / in 6 years

Gulf Arabs want Arab summit cancelled - Bahrain

DUBAI, April 12 (Reuters) - Gulf Arab states have asked the Arab League to cancel a summit scheduled to be held in Baghdad in May, the Bahraini foreign minister said on Tuesday, after Iraq criticised Bahrain’s crackdown on Shi‘ite protesters.

“GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), in a letter to the Arab League secretary general, asks for cancellation of planned Arab summit in Iraq,” Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said in a Twitter posting.

He gave no reason for the move.

The Arab summit was originally scheduled to be held in Iraq in March, but was delayed until May due to the unrest that has gripped several countries in the Middle East.

A heavy-handed security crackdown by Bahrain’s Sunni rulers on Sh‘ite protesters has sparked criticism from Iraq, Iran and Shi‘ite groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, adding to tensions between Sunni Gulf countries and their Shi‘ite-led neighbours in the world’s top oil-exporting region.

Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia that fears the regional influence of Shi‘ite powers Iran and Iraq and diplomats say the small island state in the past has launched diplomatic initiatives on behalf of Riyadh. (Reporting by Andrew Hammond; Writing by Frederik Richter; Editing by Alison Williams)

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