DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain’s foreign minister said on Monday it was “completely untrue” that Kuwait would mediate to resolve Bahrain’s political crisis.
The island kingdom’s leading Shi’ite opposition group Wefaq said on Sunday it would accept an offer by Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to mediate between Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa ruling family and Shi’ite opposition groups.
Earlier this month, Bahrain’s rulers imposed martial law in the tiny Gulf Arab state and called in troops from fellow Sunni-ruled Gulf neighbours to quell weeks of unrest during pro-democracy demonstrations by mostly Shi’ite protesters which stalled talks proposed by Bahrain’s crown prince.
Bahrain Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa said on his Twitter page there were no plans for Kuwaiti-led dialogue.
“Any talk about Kuwaiti mediation in Bahrain is completely untrue, there were previous efforts that were not answered, but these were ended by the act of National Safety (martial law).”
The Gulf Cooperation Council — a regional political and economic bloc made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — had welcomed the mediation move on Sunday.
“We hope that this initiative will be in the interest of security and stability,” Secretary-General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah told reporters in Kuwait.
More than 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shi’ites, and most are campaigning for a constitutional monarchy, but calls by hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed Sunnis, who fear that unrest serves non-Arab Shi’ite power Iran just across Gulf waters.
Seven civilians and four police died in the crackdown on protesters earlier in March by Bahrain’s forces, which also brought in troops from oil giant Saudi Arabia. The move stunned the Shi’ite majority and angered Iran.
Kuwait daily al-Seyassah said on Sunday that a Wefaq delegation was to meet Kuwaiti politicians including Parliament Speaker Jassem al-Kharafi, citing unnamed political sources. Wefaq member Jasim Husaid said Ali al-Matrook, a Kuwaiti Shi’ite businessman, was one of the mediators.
Kuwait, which has a Shi’ite minority of its own, has sent navy vessels to Bahrain under a Gulf security pact to patrol its northern coastline.
Editing by Matthew Jones