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Cablegate: King Opens Parliament; Outlines Gob Agenda

VZCZCXRO7033
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0964 2961334
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231334Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7328
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 000964

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/23/2017
TAGS: PGOV ECON SOCI BA
SUBJECT: KING OPENS PARLIAMENT; OUTLINES GOB AGENDA

REF: A. MANAMA 897
B. MANAMA 882
C. MANAMA 873
D. MANAMA 847

Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(SBU) Summary: King Hamad opened the Fall term of parliament, declaring there would be no change in the governnment's focus of recent years on economic and social development. It was his first appearance in public since rumors spread in July that he was ill; he appeared fit but kept his appearance shorter than usual. End summary.

2.(SBU) On October 17, King Hamad presided over the opening joint session of the Shura Council and the Council of Representatives. He spoke for about fifteen minutes, announcing the government would focus in coming months on economic and social development along with initiatives aimed at reinforcing Bahrain's democratization and modernizing its infrastructure. Key points of the speech: --Maintaining a tax-free economy and a legal and regulatory environment friendly to private sector investment in order to improve the living standards of all Bahrainis, --Upgrading housing and health services, --Bringing Bahrain's educational and training programs into line with international standards, --Ensuring the government's financial support for those most in need, --Attracting foreign investment and leveraging it to improve productivity and professionalism, while enhancing Bahrain's status as a leading regional and international investment hub, --Enacting "enlightened" legislation that will enable a free press to work in a transparent and responsible way in order to reinforce democracy, --Upgrading Bahrain's telecommunications infrastructure to 21st century standards, and --Approving Bahrain's membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order that the country may benefit from the peaceful use of nuclear power with complete transparency.

3.(SBU) Comment: Local press hailed the King's comments on press freedom with local Arabic dailies Al-Waqt and Al-Ayam publishing front-page editorials interpreting his comments as a message in support of a pending bill that would take away prosecutors' power to seek jail terms for journalists (an option that has not been exercised for years). The King made no reference to constitutional amendments to strengthen parliament's authority, for which Shi'a and some Sunni MPs have called.

4.(C) Comment continued: The King appeared well. This was his first public appearance since returning from an extended stay in London over the summer, during which he underwent medical treatment (reftels). When opening previous parliaments, the King made a point of greeting and shaking hands with every member of both houses. This time, he forwent the traditional grip-and-grin marathon, fueling a new round of rumors. As long as the GOB declines to be transparent about the King's health, these rumors will continue. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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