A U.S. diplomat who was ordered to leave Bahrain this week says the country's Sunni leadership is using him to undermine reconciliation with the Shiite opposition.
The Bahraini government Monday accused visiting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski of interfering in internal affairs and called for his immediate departure after he met with opposition members, who have been advocating reform since a 2011 uprising.
On Tuesday, Malinowski wrote on his Twitter feed that Bahrain's decision was "not about me but about undermining dialogue," and that "those committed to reconciliation should not be deterred."
The State Department confirmed that Malinowski met on Monday with leading Shiite opposition group Al Wifaq.
It added, however, that he had also met with government officials and was scheduled to see Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and senior cabinet members in coming days.
Although the assistant secretary's long-planned meetings were originally "warmly welcomed and encouraged" by Manama, the State Department said that when Malinowski arrived, the government insisted that a Foreign Ministry representative attend every meeting.
The majority Shi'ite opposition has pushed for democratic reforms in the Sunni-lead country since March 2011, when Bahrain's government crushed pro-reform demonstrations, sending security forces to clear a protest encampment in Manama and bringing in troops from neighboring Sunni-led Gulf states to restore order.