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Bahrain retain hope of staging Grand Prix

Bahrain Grand Prix organisers still hope to reschedule the Formula One race this year, despite the ongoing crackdown on anti-government protesters on the island nation.

The Bahrain GP was to be the F1 season-opener on March 13 but was canceled in February by Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa after protests paralyzed the country.

The F1 season began, instead, at the Australian GP in Melbourne on March 27.

The series' governing body has given Bahrain's federation until May 1 to decide if a new date can be set this year.

Bahrain International Circuit Chief Executive Officer Sheik Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa told the Bahrain News Agency late Tuesday that no decision on a new date had been made. But he said they were working on it.

"We are in constant contact with concerned authorities to reschedule the Bahrain Grand Prix 2011," Al-Khalifa said. "Now that security has prevailed and normal life has returned to Bahrain, thanks to the wise leadership, we are stepping up contacts to host the race anew."

At the time of the cancellation, protesters argued that proceeding with the race would be an insult to the victims of the uprising and proof that the Sunni royal family, in power for 200 years, has not heard the demands of the Shiite population, which wants a larger share in the nation's decision-making process.

Authorities in Bahrain have cracked down heavily on dissent since martial law was declared last month to quell the protests. At least 29 people have been killed since the protests began on Feb. 14, including three opposition supporters who died in custody. Hundreds of Shiite activists, anti-government protesters and opposition leaders have been detained in the crackdown.

None of those in custody have been publicly charged with a crime or brought to trial.

The Shiites are agitating for greater political freedoms and equal rights.

Bahrain holds particular importance to Washington as the host of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, the main American counterweight to Iran's efforts to expand its military influence into the Gulf. The United States has urged the monarchy to respect human rights but said little about allegations of repression against Bahrain's Shiites.