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Ecclestone open to meeting Bahrain opposition

Apr 16, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of China - Race Getty Images

Formula One leader Bernie Ecclestone has said that he is willing to meet opposition members leading up to this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, as anti-government protests continue to carry on in the country.

Ecclestone, who met with opposition group Al-Wefaq last year in both London and Bahrain, said that he was “happy to talk to anybody about this” according to Reuters’ Alan Baldwin.

“We don’t want to see trouble,” the British billionaire said. “We don’t want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don’t understand, because we really don’t understand… Some people feel it’s our fault there are problems.”

Indeed, multiple rights groups, as well as some British politicians, have called for either a boycott or outright cancellation of the Grand Prix. Allegations of the Bahrain government rounding up activists ahead of the race continue to persist, and the unrest in the country threatens to once again overshadow its biggest international sporting event.

“The race is going ahead and our position is quite simply to call it out for what it is — it is a political event which will serve to gloss over serious rights violations,” Human Rights Watch research Nicholas McGeehan said to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, 1996 World Champion Damon Hill has demanded that FIA president Jean Todt take a stance on the Grand Prix itself. He also says that the F1 paddock doesn’t want any violence to ensue because of their presence.

“I think the vast majority of the people in Formula One would like to say ‘We don’t want to come here to make things worse for people,'”‘ Hill said to British reporters at last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix. ” ‘We would like you to enjoy Formula One, we think Formula One has lots of positive things to offer, but please don’t, on our behalf, round up people and brutalize them.’ “‘

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