President Bush is increasing military cooperation with Bahrain. The President met with Bahrain's crown prince Thursday to discuss the war on terrorism and violence in the Middle East.
President Bush will make Bahrain a "major non-NATO ally," a designation that gives the Persian Gulf archipelago greater access to U.S. military training and research and development. It also makes it easier for Bahrain to buy U.S. weapons.
President Bush announced his intention during an Oval Office meeting with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. White House officials said the men discussed the ongoing war against terrorism and what it means for the Middle East.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the prince said the U.S.-led coalition is not conducting a campaign against Islam but is instead determined to punish those responsible for the violence of September 11.
Some Arab members of the coalition have urged President Bush to stop the bombing of Afghanistan during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Crown Prince said everyone wants the fighting to end as soon as possible, but he said the attacks should continue until "the mission is complete." "We would, of course, love to see the conflict resolved as quickly as possible and that is from a humanitarian concern. Wars have been fought during Ramadan in the past."
The crown prince said what is important now is to come up with a broad-based government for Afghanistan with politicians representative of all the country's people.
He joined President Bush in welcoming the partial Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian-controlled territories and said the United States is doing everything it can to end Middle East violence. "The White House has been doing its utmost to bring this conflict to a resolution, but it's up to both sides to come up with the solution to the problem."
Bahrain and the United States have a history of military cooperation. The islands are the base of the U.S. Fifth Fleet which patrols the Persian Gulf and acted as an important air base during the 1991 Gulf War. Elevating Bahrain to the status of "major non-NATO ally" puts it on par with other nations sharing that designation including Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, and South Korea.