Bahrain to pursue dialogue, get more Gulf troops

MANAMA, March 18 Fri Mar 18, 2011 1:18pm EDT

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MANAMA, March 18 (Reuters) - Bahrain remains committed to dialogue with the opposition but restoring security is a priority and more Gulf troops will arrive on the island to support its forces, the foreign minister said on Friday.

Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said three or four Gulf states were sending troops and the forces would remain in the Sunni-ruled kingdom for as long as it takes to restore order.

Their role would be limited to guarding strategic assets such as oil facilities, however, and they would not be involving in quelling protests, he told a news conference in Manama.

"We look with all confidence to the return of normal life in Bahrain," Sheikh Khaled said. "We know dialogue is our path."

Sheikh Khaled also rejected criticism from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the Gulf intervention was a step on the "wrong track", saying that Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, looked forward to clarifying the situation to its ally.

He also dismissed suggestions that Saudi Arabia had pressured its tiny neighbour into allowing the intervention of outside troops, saying the issue had been discussed with the Gulf Cooperation Council in several talks. (Reporting by Erika Solomon and Lin Noueihed; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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