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U.K, U.S. back Bahrain's reform efforts

Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM

LONDON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The British government welcomes the renewed attempts at reconciliation announced by the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain, a minister for the Middle East said.

Bahrain announced that King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called for a national dialogue, urging political groups and independent leaders to usher in national reforms, the official Bahrain News Agency reported Tuesday.

Bahrain has been the frequent target of criticism for its crackdown on opposition supporters in the Sunni-led kingdom. Last year, the government revoked the citizenship of several opposition leaders and briefly placed tight restrictions on public demonstrations.

British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt welcomed Manama's renewed commitment to reform.

"I encourage all sides to use this opportunity for genuine and inclusive dialogue to play a constructive role in resolving the political situation," he said in a statement.

Dozens of people were killed during a 2011 uprising supported by Shiite groups in the country. The Sunni-led monarchy said it was committed to a reform agenda outlined by an independent commission of inquiry that investigated the government's response to the unrest.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, added that Washington was "encouraged" by the latest reform efforts.

Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

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