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FIA says F1 Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead

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The governing body of the Formula One motor racing series has said that the Bahrain Grand Prix is to go ahead as planned, despite ongoing political instability and threats from some groups to disrupt the event.

In a statement issued early on Friday, the FIA said: "Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place" and that "therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled".

The body said that it had made its decision based on a fact-finding mission led by FIA President Jean Todt in November 2011, and on regular security briefings from "the most senior diplomatic officials based in the kingdom" and international experts.

Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone, said after meeting with team principals at the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday that he believed Bahrain is peaceful enough to hold the race.

"There's nothing happening (in Bahrain)," Ecclestone said. "I know people that live there and it's all very quiet and peaceful."

The race will be held on April 22 at the Sakhir circuit.

Protests continue

Bahrain has suffered civil unrest since an uprising in February last year and the situation has grown more tense in recent weeks as the race date approaches and the health of a jailed activist on hunger strike deteriorates.

More than 5,000 demonstrators and police faced off near the capital Manama last Friday, with the protestors demanding the release of hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

Abdulhadi has been on hunger strike for more than 60 days and was moved to a military hospital last week in a fragile condition.

FIA president Todt is expected to be in China for the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend, as is F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, and there are likely to be a number of meetings in the Shanghai paddock - possibly up until as late as Sunday morning.

"Friday has been the busiest day for protests in Bahrain so Saturday looks the most likely day for any emergency meeting [in Shanghai]," commented one team member.

Last year's Bahrain Grand Prix was repeatedly re-scheduled and then reluctantly cancelled by organisers due to the violence in the country.

Circuit chairman Zayed Alzayani said last month that the race contributes $220 million directly to the local economy and $400-500 million indirectly.

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