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US expand military port in Bahrain 8, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain.
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The ever-reliable MEED reports on the US acquisition of extra port space in Bahrain. Despite having their largest American military port outside the US already in Bahrain, the US clearly feel that they need more capacity and have thus bought up a former container port to convert to military use. Bahrain authorities will be pleased to hear this. Not only do they have to think (worry) about a potentially hostile Iran but relations with their disenfranchise Shia majority is getting increasing fractious leading to, as you can see, riots:

The MEED report, quoted at length below, also list some interesting facts about the US in Bahrain.

The 5th Fleet has some 3,500 personnel and 16 vessels based in Bahrain, while the total fleet numbers 25,000 sailors and marines, and close to 40 ships. The vacant facilities at Mina Salman will provide the navy with 15 extra berths, cargo and container facilities.The current lease agreement at the site sees the navy pay the Bahrain government $6.7m a year for use of its current 265,000 sq m of space in Bahrain, including harbour patrol space and berthing at Mina Salman, and aviation unit space at Bahrain International airport. The US will pay an additional $2.9m a year for the extra waterfront space.

“The navy’s lease agreement is renewed on a yearly basis, with an indefinite number of renewal terms,” says the spokeswoman.

The US is also seeking permission to build a flyover bridge linking its base close to Mina Salman with the port itself, to improve security for US personnel.

Had the agreement not gone ahead, other ventures for the site had been proposed. “If the base had not been there I think Mina Salman would have been converted into a tourist terminal but with the fleet next door that wasn’t really viable,” says a ports official in Bahrain.

Bahrain’s new commercial facility, Khalifa Bin Salman Port, received its first ships in April and is operated by the Dutch group APM Terminals.

The site has initial container capacity for 1 million 20-foot equivalent units.

Abu Dhabi paper’s editor quits 8, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Media in the ME, The Emirates.
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The Abu Dhabi daily newspaper, the National, has confirmed that its editor Martin Newland has stepped down and his former deputy Hassan Fattah will take his place. This is undoubtedly a blow for the credibility of the paper. Newland was installed originally with much fanfare in April 2008 and brought with him a number of journalists from the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. Once he arrived and took up the reins he proceeded to scour much of the Western world for journalists to fill the places to meet the size and circulation requirements.

One of the key sticking points of this venture was always going to be press freedom. Whilst Newland always maintained that he was not there to launch a crusade for media freedom, he nevertheless maintained that he would bring Western standards of journalism to Abu Dhabi. Government press releases, for example, were no longer to be simply copied out as the lead story with little to no context or criticism.

However, these have been exceedingly trying times for Abu Dhabi. The torture issue involving the half brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the mooted introduction of the new Emirati media law giving the authorities power over the hiring and firing of journalists as well as punishing journalists who write ‘disparaging’ comments that may harm the country’s economy, hint that the country is heading down a decidedly authoritarian path. Whether these were the precipitants of Newland’s resignation or not remains, however, to be seen.

t. But it will continue to punish journalists for such infractions as “disparaging” government officials or publishing “misleading” news that “harms the country’s economy.”