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More reform for Bahrain... will F1 follow?

THE Emir of Bahrain, who has ambitions to host a Grand Prix as early as 2002, is doing his best to give the state a less totalitarian image. This week he pledged to establish a parliamentary system with one of the two houses elected by the people. Bahrain briefly had a parliament in the mid-1970s but since then all political parties have been banned.

Things began to change last year when Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa took over control of the country after the death of his father Sheik Isa bin Sulman Al-Khalifa.

The new Emir has since introduced a number of economic reforms and is looking at ways to build up the countries tourism and banking industries - in direct competition with nearby Dubai. As part of the research into changing the image of Bahrain, the Emir and two of his ministers visited the Italian GP in 1999 and had a meeting with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Money will not be a problem if the Emir decides to go ahead with the plan for a Grand Prix in Bahrain and Ecclestone will no doubt agree as he is keen to have an event somewhere in the Arab world to widen the level of interest in Grand Prix racing around the world. Several Arab nations are expressing an interest in holding a race, notably Tunisia, Egypt and Dubai. Given the calendar congestion at the moment, there is only likely to be one Middle Eastern event in the immediate future.

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