23 MAR 2011
By Andrew Rettman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A senior advisor to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has defended Bahrain's security forces after they opened fire on protesters with live ammunition last week.
Speaking to MEPs in the foreign affairs committee in Brussels on Tuesday (22 March) after visiting Bahrain, Robert Cooper, Ashton's top advisor on the western Balkans and the Middle East, said the island is normally "a rather pleasant, peaceful place."
He went on: "I'm not sure if the police have had to deal with these public order questions before. It's not easy dealing with large demonstrations in which there may be violence. It's a difficult task for policemen. It's not something that we always get right in the best Western countries and accidents happen."
He noted that two policemen were also killed last week.
Referring to opposition roadblocks on the Manama airport road, he added: "The situation had in fact, from the point of view of the management of Bahrain, which is a small island, become almost intolerable ... One should understand the authorities were right to restore calm and order and that's what they've done. But that is only right if it is followed by dialogue."
Bahrain security forces on Friday launched a crackdown on protesters in the capital's Pearl Square reportedly killing four and injuring over 200.
Amateur video footage showed heavily-armed balaclava-wearing men shooting at civilians. Shots were also fired into the crowd from convoys of jeeps and tanks were brought onto the streets in a level of violence described by the United Nations as "shocking." Government forces later blocked off the main hospital, preventing doctors from treating casualties.
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Bahrain protest crackdown defended by European Union envoy