Cameron urges Bahrain's King Hamad to implement reforms

King Hamad with David Cameron King Hamad said he had a "very good" meeting with Mr Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron has urged Bahrain's king to implement concrete reforms, and has offered UK support.

An independent commission last month found that Bahraini police had used excessive force against anti-government protesters earlier this year.

Mr Cameron met King Hamad Al-Khalifa during talks at Downing Street, on the king's first visit to the UK since the clashes in which 40 people died.

King Hamad said he wanted UK advice on the reform of the police and judiciary.

The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner says King Hamad told him he had had a "very good meeting" with Mr Cameron.

The monarch said he had decided to invite all parties, including those in opposition, to post an adviser in his office to monitor the reconciliation and reform process.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron emphasised the "importance of strengthening respect for human rights" in Bahrain during his "useful" meeting with King Hamad.

Analysis

Meeting both King Hamad and the head of Bahrain's main opposition party in London today, I heard, perhaps predictably, both sides of the story.

The king has chosen Britain for his first overseas visit since last month's damning report into human rights abuses.

He wants British advice on implementing reforms, and to restore relations after some sharp criticisms from Whitehall during earlier clashes.

But those clashes haven't stopped: Shia villages are often choked with tear gas. Bahrainis from the Shia majority still have deep-rooted political grievances and many suspect their Sunni rulers of procrastinating on reform.

Pulling the king in the opposite direction is a hard core of Sunni "loyalists" who want few or no concessions to the Shia, calling them "traitors".

Steering Bahrain out of its current impasse will require considerable leadership skills on all sides.

"He urged the king to deliver swiftly on the commitments he has made to implement the recommendations from the inquiry and to drive forward reform and reconciliation in the country, engaging with the opposition as part of that process," a spokesperson said.

The king welcomed an offer by Mr Cameron to help with the reform process, and the leaders also discussed boosting trade co-operation and opportunities for British business to invest in Bahrain, the spokesperson said.

The Bahrain government's response to the Arab Spring demonstrations sparked international condemnation. At least 40 people died in the unrest.

But since last month's human rights report, King Hamad appears to have acted quickly on its recommendations, our correspondent says.

He sacked the hardline head of national security and set up a human rights watchdog.

Now he is looking to his old ally Britain for advice, support and investment, our correspondent adds.

Amnesty International UK said Bahrain's human rights record was "still heavily tarnished" and the Downing Street meeting was "an opportunity for the prime minister to make it clear that Bahrain still has lot to do to repair the damage of its crackdown on the protests this year".

Meanwhile, the leader of Bahrain's main opposition party said he was willing to sit down with King Hamad to discuss "serious political reform".

Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of the al-Wefaq party, told Frank Gardner he wanted to keep the monarchy.

Ties strained

He said that, unlike many in the opposition, he did not want an end to the ruling Al-Khalifa family, just a constitutional monarchy and democracy.

Ties between the UK and Bahrain have been strained, with the previous British ambassador denied access to ministers for being openly critical of Bahrain's treatment of protesters and for being seen as too close to the mainly Shia opposition.

A Foreign Office official said Britain was now keen to help Bahrain on the path to democratic reform.

On Friday, Bahraini riot police fired tear gas at protests in an attempt to stem fresh demonstrations to the east of the capital, Manama.

They were attempting to march from the village of Musalla to the Pearl Square roundabout, the focus of the protests earlier this year.

The Gulf kingdom's Shia majority has been demanding action to tackle economic hardship, the lack of political freedom and employment discrimination in favour of the ruling Sunni minority.

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