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Bahrain votes to ban alcohol ... for Muslims

MANAMA (AFP) – Bahrain on Monday inched closer to imposing a ban on Muslims drinking or trading in alcohol in the Gulf kingdom, a favourite watering-hole of Saudis who use a causeway linking the two Arab neighbours.

Its all-appointed upper chamber adopted an amendment to the penal code, banning imports and consumption of alcohol for and by Muslims, in a move subject to King Hamad's approval.

The council authorised Bahraini authorities to decide where alcohol can continue to be served to non-Muslims.

Bahrain's elected parliament, dominated by Shiite and Sunni Islamists, last month voted for a total ban on alcohol.

But the move stirred an angry reaction from the chamber of commerce and from Bahraini liberals, who warned that the proposed ban would harm the economy and the country's tolerant image.

Bahrain's relatively liberal environment has turned the Gulf archipelago into a draw for visitors from neighbouring strict Muslim countries, mainly Saudi Arabia.

A large number of Saudis cross the causeway to Bahrain every weekend.