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Bahrain 'safer than London'

2012-04-12 08:06

DESERT SANDS BECKON: Formula 1 bosses are keen to return to Bahrain's desert circuit this year and the security consultant appointed by the FIA is convinced of the kingdom's safety.

Alan Baldwin

SHANGHAI, China - The Briton hired to oversee reform of Bahrain's police force has written to the head of Formula 1's governing body to calm security fears about next week's grand prix, saying he often felt safer living in the kingdom than in London.

John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, told International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt that he was aware of 'very real concerns' but feared those involved in the sport were being given "a distorted picture".

In the letter, dated April 11, 2012 and read by Reuters, he said he was not an apologist for the bloody crackdown that took place after the 2011 uprising and could not deny troubles existed in the Gulf kingdom.

'COMPLETELY SAFE'


"The almost nightly skirmishes that take place in certain villages are a potential block on progress and are putting those involved in their policing and innocent members of the public in significant danger," Yates wrote. "However, despite how these events may be portrayed through the medium of Youtube and other outlets, their significance should not be overplayed."

Yates declared the protesters' views did not represent the majority of Bahrainis. "Along with my family, I feel completely safe. Indeed, safer than I have often felt in London."

F1 faces calls from rights groups and local protesters to call off the country's biggest sporting event because of continued violence and political unrest. One UK-based Bahraini dissident has called the GP "a tool of repression" being used by the country's minority Sunni Muslim rulers.

TEAMS TO DECIDE IN CHINA


Team bosses, most of them British-based, are expected to discuss the situation with Todt and F1's commercial rights owner Bernie Ecclestone during the weekend off the 2012 Chinese GP and perhaps lobby for the race to be postponed.

Both Ecclestone and Todt have been strongly supportive of going to Bahrain, an influential nation in the sport and the first in the Middle East to host a GP.

An FIA spokesman said Todt was currently in Taiwan.

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