U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet to stay put

July 22, 2011 at 11:35 AM

WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department denied reports that the U.S. Navy was considering removing the 5th Fleet from its port in Bahrain.

U.S. and regional sources suggested to The Times of London that Navy officials were reviewing their presence there.

The source said U.S. lawmakers are concerned the military presence is seen as tacit support for Bahrain's response to the Shiite uprising.

A State Department official, however, told the Huffington Post on condition of anonymity that the report didn't reflect the views of the Pentagon or the State Department.

"Diplomatically, we regard Bahrain as an important partner, while the U.S. Navy has a long-standing relationship of more than 60 years with Bahrain, which is a vital member of our combined maritime forces, supporting regional maritime security and stability," the official was quoted as saying.

Washington was criticized early this year for staying relatively quite during complaints the Sunni monarchy was using heavy-handed tactics to silence a Shiite uprising early this year.

The kingdom announced this week that it transferred more power to the prime minister during a national dialogue session. The minority Sunni-led kingdom launched a national dialogue session in early July to address political concerns.

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