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Banned group bids to return...

Byline: Geoffrey bew

AN AMERICAN political organisation that was kicked out of Bahrain after being accused of trying to undermine the country's laws, hopes to re-establish a permanent base here.

The Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) operates in more than 60 countries around the world to encourage the spread of democracy.

But its links with Bahrain were temporarily terminated in May 2006, after it allegedly violated the country's political society laws, including rules about the funding of organisations.

The NDI was later allowed to continue operating after signing a memorandum of co-operation with the Bahrain Political Development Institute (BPDI), but has not had an office here since. BPDI chairwoman Dr Lulwa Al Awadi said at the time that NDI's members were trying to sow the seeds of discord between different political factions.

NDI director Fawzi Julaid was then told to leave Bahrain after his sponsor, the BPDI, decided not to renew his residence permit.

The US Embassy later denied claims that the organisation had funded any civil or political societies.

NDI senior advisor for Qatar and Bahrain Scott Bates yesterday confirmed the body had been carrying on its activities without restriction for several months.

He was in Bahrain attending a one-day workshop at the Gulf Hotel's Gulf International Convention and Exhibition Centre, aiming to strengthen the relationship between politicians and the media.

The United Nations Development Programme organised the event in co-operation with the Bahrain Institute for Political Development and the NDI.

Mr Bates said the NDI had not re-opened its office in Bahrain but the government allowed him to make regular visits from the US.

"This is the third activity we have had in Bahrain in the last few months and I will be back in March and then here once a month until the summer," he told the GDN.

"We have freedom of movement and I feel free to talk with anyone.

"But as a permanent base, we do not have any office in Bahrain.

"We have offices in 60 countries around the world, including permanent offices in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.

"I love Bahraini hospitality and I am hoping for more presence in Bahrain in the future."

Mr Bates said NDI is continuing its aims to strengthen Bahrain's Parliament as an institution, increase the efficiency of its staff and improve relations between politicians and constituents.

The organisation is planning a series of events this year, including meetings with parliamentary committees and staff, legislative executives and political societies.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:May 1, 2008
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