* "Meaningful steps" sought towards human rights
* Relatively rare for lawmakers to oppose such sales
WASHINGTON Oct 14 The United States held out
the possibility on Friday it may not sell $53 million in arms
to Bahrain, saying it had not made a final decision to transfer
the materiel and human rights would weigh in its assessment.
The Pentagon on Sept. 14 notified Congress of its intent to
sell more than 44 armored Humvees and 300 TOW missiles to
Bahrain, whose crackdown on a popular uprising this year has
prompted some U.S. lawmakers to oppose the sale.
"This is a notification about future intent," U.S. State
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We will
continue to take human rights into consideration as we make
future decisions about this."
Senator Ron Wyden and Representative James McGovern, both
Democrats, have introduced resolutions in Congress to prevent
the sale "until meaningful steps are taken to improve human
As the so-called "Arab spring" swept authoritarian
governments from power in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, Bahrain's
Shi'ite majority turned up the political heat in the island
The Sunni ruling family in the Gulf Arab state has put down
the pro-democracy uprising with the help of neighboring Saudi
Arabia and of the United Arab Emirates.
Many Shi'ite areas are witnessing almost nightly clashes
with police. Opposition groups say heavy-handed police tactics
are worsening tension on the street.
About 30 people, mainly Shi'ites, died when the protest
movement erupted in February, but ongoing clashes and deaths in
police custody have taken the total past 40, according to the
Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
"Proceeding with the announced arms sale to Bahrain without
modification under the current circumstances weakens U.S.
credibility at a critical time of political transition in the
Middle East," Republican Senator Marco Rubio wrote Secretary
off State Hillary Clinton in a letter on Thursday.
It is relatively rare for U.S. lawmakers to oppose such
arms sales because they are typically vetted with Congress
before they become public.
Prime contractors for the arms sale would be AM GeneralRaytheon Co , according to the Defense
Security Cooperation Agency, the part of the Pentagon that
oversees foreign arms sales.