World leaders to attend key forum in Bahrain


Prime ministers, national security advisers, intelligence chiefs and military officials from across the globe will attend the fifth annual Manama Dialogue, at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa.

Organisers are keeping the full list of delegates under wraps for security reasons, but among those known to be attending are US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, US Army Central Command commander David Petraeus and Fifth Fleet Commander vice-admiral Bill Gortney.

British Defence Secretary John Hutton has also confirmed his participation, while a delegation from Iran – which boycotted last year’s event – is expected to take part.

However, organisers were unable to say exactly who would be representing Iran.

India’s National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, who offered to resign in the aftermath of last month’s Mumbai terrorist attacks, but was urged to stay on, is also expected to attend.

In total, delegations from more than 25 countries are expected to attend, including all the GCC states.

Delegates will debate the threats posed by nuclear power in the Middle East, along with sectarian politics, the US and the regional balance of power and progress in Iraq.

External factors that influence security will also come under the spotlight at the three-day event, which opens tonight.

Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa and Defence Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa took part last year and are expected to lead Bahrain’s delegation this time.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which organises the event, billed this year’s gathering as the most important security meeting in the Middle East.

"Our aim is conflict resolution," said event manager Mark Allworthy.

"We bring together the people who can co-ordinate regional security.

"We do that by hosting the event and creating an environment for them to have private bilateral meetings."

A series of meetings will take place on the sidelines of the annual conference, which Bahrain will host until 2011.

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