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World motorsport's governing body the FIA and promoters Formula One Management on Friday said that the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix should take place, despite demonstrations by opposition groups and clashes between protesters and police.
"The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and Formula One Management (FOM) wish to jointly confirm their belief that the Bahrain GP should go ahead this weekend, following assurances from the local promoter and the authorities that security, their responsibility, will be guaranteed for all participants," a statement read.
Shiite opposition groups were set to gather before the first day of practice at the Sakhir circuit south of Manama for mass rallies to highlight their pro-reform demands.
Hardline protesters on Thursday clashed into the night with police, and witnesses reported that the authorities fired stun grenades and tear gas as tyres were burnt, main roads blocked and petrol bombs thrown.
The arrival of the Formula One circus for the fourth race of the 2013 season has seen an increase in protests and claims of human rights abuses, prompting fresh calls for the sport to question its presence in the country on ethical grounds.
But the two organisations said Formula One could be good for Bahrain, the scene of long-running protests by Shiites for greater political freedoms against the kingdom's Sunni rulerss.
"The FIA and FOM also strongly believe that sport can often be a force for good and that the staging of the Grand Prix in Bahrain will come some way in helping soothe some of the issues which have been raised in the media," the statement added.
The President of the FIA Jean Todt, and Bernie Ecclestone, F1's Commercial Rights Holder, are united in expressing their support for the Bahrain GP and the national organiser, and wish that all concerned respect the desire of the teams, drivers and all those involved in the staging of the event to do the best job possible over the weekend."