Saudi Arabia sends troops to Bahrain

-US urges restraint by Gulf nations

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The United States today urged Saudi Arabia to show restraint after it sent  troops to neighboring Bahrain in a move some analysts said  showed the limits of Washington’s influence in the region.
The deployment of 1,000 Saudi troops, at the request of  Bahrain’s Sunni royal family, came two days after U.S. Defense  Secretary Robert Gates visited the island kingdom and pressed  its rulers to implement political reforms to defuse tensions  with the Shi’ite Muslim majority.
The Pentagon said neither Gates nor Admiral Mike Mullen,  chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who also recently visited  Bahrain, had been given no indication that Saudi or other  forces from the region would deploy to Bahrain.
The United States, which fears Shi’ite Iran could try to  exploit the instability in Bahrain, was cautious in its  response to the troop deployment, neither criticizing nor  explicitly welcoming it.
“This is not an invasion of a country,” White House  spokesman Jay Carney said after Saudi Arabia and other Sunni  Gulf governments sent troops and police to the tiny kingdom hit  by spreading Shi’ite unrest.
Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said the  Pentagon had “communicated to all parties our concern regarding  actions that could be provocative or inflame sectarian  tensions.”
In Paris, a U.S. official who spoke on condition of  anonymity told reporters that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary  Clinton had told the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister  that Washington believes that the solution in Bahrain must come  from credible political reform, and not from a military  outcome.
The official spoke after talks with Sheikh Abdullah bin  Zayed al-Nahayan in Paris, where Clinton was particating in a  meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight powers.
The turmoil in Bahrain, a small but important U.S. ally and  home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, comes as Washington  struggles to formulate a strategy in response to political  unrest that has already toppled U.S.-allied governments in  Egypt and Tunisia, led to violent protests in Yemen and a  bloody rebellion against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Saudi Arabia, whose Sunni ruling dynasty is closely allied  both with Bahrain’s royal family and with the United States,  sent a column of armored troop carriers into Bahrain on Monday  to protect government facilities after mainly Shi’ite  protesters overran police and blocked roads.
“We urge the government of Bahrain, as we have repeatedly,  as well as other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, to  exercise restraint,” Carney said. The GCC comprises the United  Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

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