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JANUARY 8, 2002

Bahrain liberalizes - but tear gas is still in order

THE Gulf state of Bahrain is in the process of building a Formula 1 racing circuit in order to promote its new liberal image around the world. The country wants to turn itself into a center for global finance, stepping in to the void left when the Chinese took over Hong Kong.

The Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is personally behind the project and has overseen a large number of reforms since he took power, including the re-establishment of parliament, an amnesty for anti-government activists and the establishment of liberal newspapers.

However other problems are now emerging with unemployment becoming an issue and on Monday police broke up a demonstration outside the Labor Ministry, using tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The government is engaged in a number of major schemes to create new jobs - the F1 circuit being one of them.