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Bahrain backs off plan to ban opposition after US criticism

The abrupt U-turn suggests that the US, which has been largely silent over the past month, still wields influence over the tiny kingdom despite its acquiescence to Saudi interests there.

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Iranian demonstrators chant slogans in a protest against Saudi and Bahraini leaders condemning crackdown on Bahraini opposition, as one of them holds up a mocking poster of Statue of Liberty, in front of the Bahraini Embassy in Tehran, Iran, on Friday, April 15.

Vahid Salemi/AP

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Bahrain has backed off its move to dissolve the kingdom’s strongest political opposition bloc after the US criticized the decision made by its tiny ally – home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and other military installations critical to American operations in the Persian Gulf.

The Ministry of Justice and Islamic affairs announced yesterday it was seeking court approval to ban Al Wefaq, a Shiite political bloc that is the government’s strongest opposition, and the smaller Islamic Action Association. It accused both groups of violating laws and harming “social peace and national unity.”

But after the US State Department spokesman criticized the move, Bahrain’s official news agency removed the original statement and said that the ministry would wait for the outcome of current investigations before deciding to take action against the political societies. The abrupt U-turn suggests that the US, which has been largely silent over the past month, still wields influence over the tiny kingdom despite its acquiescence to Saudi interests there.

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