WASHINGTON, July 7 (Xinhua) -- A senior U.S. diplomat was still in Bahrain hours after he was ordered to leave the Middle East country, U.S. State Department said on Monday.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski "is on a visit to reaffirm and strengthen our bilateral ties and to support his royal majesty, King Hamad's reform and reconciliation efforts at an important time," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a press briefing.
Malinowski arrived in Bahrain, a U.S. ally home to a base for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, on Sunday and had been scheduled to stay for three days.
Earlier on Monday, Bahrain's Foreign Ministry declared Malinowski persona non grata and ordered him to immediately leave the kingdom because he interfered in Bahrain's internal affairs, the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.
A foreign ministry statement carried by the BNA did not say who Malinowski met but stressed that his meetings were in contradiction with "diplomatic norms and flouted normal interstate relations."
Psaki said that U.S. officials "are in close touch with Bahraini government officials on the ground and we'll see what transpires over the next several hours." The spokeswoman, however, declined to say whether the United States was planning to consider any Bahraini diplomat persona non grata.
According to Bahrain's main Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, Malinowski has met its leader, cleric Ali Salman and other opposition leaders.
Al-Wefaq, which is an authorized political association, posted a picture of the meeting on its official Twitter account, showing Salman seated next to Malinowski and two other men with a flag of Al-Wefaq and a flag of Bahrain in the backdrop.
Bahrain has been facing clashes between anti-government demonstrators and government forces since its majority Shiites staged protests against the Sunni monarchy in March 2011.