US officials and their counterparts in Bahrain, which crushed month-long protests in mid-March, have renewed a defense pact, officials said Friday.
The two countries inked a 10-year defense agreement on October 28, 1991, seven months after the Gulf War, that was renewed in October 2001 for the same duration.
As early as 2002, the administration of former US president George W. Bush and the Bahraini regime secretly extended the accord for another five years, to 2016, The Washington Post reported. But Pentagon officials declined to confirm those dates to AFP.
A US official who requested anonymity, however, said that "it would be accurate to say that it goes beyond that date" of October 2011.
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Yet the official cautioned that: "Obviously, it's a very delicate situation over there right now, so you never know what could change."
The defense pact allows US access to bases in strategically located Bahrain, home the US Fifth Fleet, and for the United States to preposition its military equipment.
It also provides for consultations if any security crisis arises for the Gulf country and for the United States to train Bahrain forces, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Washington considers Bahrain, located across the Gulf from arch-US foe Iran, a major non-NATO ally.
Security forces in the tiny archipelago ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty cracked down on mostly Shiite pro-democracy protesters in mid-March after being backed by troops that rolled in from neighboring Sunni Gulf monarchies.
Washington decried the crackdown, urging Bahrain's rulers to negotiate with protesters and respond to the legitimate needs of the people.