Obama administration denounces Bahrain ban on public demonstrations

The Obama administration is denouncing in unusually harsh terms a ban on public demonstrations imposed by Bahrain, a key American ally in the Gulf that is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The State Department said Wednesday that Washington was "deeply concerned" by the ban, which it said violates freedom of assembly, association and expression. Spokesman Mark Toner said the move runs "contrary" to Bahrain's promises to reform and urged authorities to respect commitments to uphold fundamental human rights.

He said the government should work with the opposition to address complaints that have sparked months of unrest. He also called on the opposition to renounce violence and for both sides to restore confidence and stability.

Bahrain's interior minister stressed Wednesday that the ban is only temporary.