LONDON: His Majesty King Hamad has praised Bahrain's historic relations with Britain.
The King was speaking at a dinner banquet hosted by him at his London residence marking his visit to the UK to attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show, held for the first time at Windsor Great Park.
"I am happy to say that the relationship is as strong as ever - perhaps even stronger. We have the closest co-operation across a wide range of activities and especially in the field of defence where we are seeking to expand the British presence in our country for mutual benefit. To that end we signed a new defence co-operation accord in October last year," His Majesty said in his speech.
"There are some 9,000 permanent British residents in Bahrain making a major contribution to the prosperity of the kingdom as they have always done. Indeed I am proud to say that, by due legal process, we have granted Bahraini nationality to 240 British citizens as they themselves had requested and whose loyal service more than justified it.
"At this time Bahrain is going through a phase of remarkable economic regeneration. There are major projects underway in housing, including substantial social housing, and for expansion in the oil sector, but above all in transport. And before long Bahrain will be connected to its fellow GCC countries as a result of the ambitious plan to create a railway linking all the GCC states.
"And underpinning these exciting projects the economy continues to grow at five per cent a year. Meanwhile, Bahrain's total banking assets in the UK amount to $11.1 billion which does not include any other investments Bahrain has in the UK.
"This encouraging picture of a dynamic and happy country is not always the one reflected by the Western media. But as Disraeli said - 'it is easier to be critical than correct'. Of course the unrest of 2011 has had an impact and it continues in a small number of villages to this day. We are doing our best to tackle it through dialogue and the improvements we have put in place in our legal and policing procedures in which we have had much support from the UK authorities. Unfortunately we are dealing with a small but violent minority inspired and supported by elements outside the kingdom. But we remain confident that we will achieve an outcome satisfactory to all," the King said.
The King thanked Queen Elizabeth for inviting him to attend the horse show.
The ceremony was attended by Duke of York Prince Andrew, the King's Personal Representative Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
The UK Chief of State, British Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Lords, MPs, heads of companies and other guests were also present.