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Britain’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, said he “concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police” in Bahrain.

“I call on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from violence,” Mr. Burt said.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday the Obama administration is “very concerned” about violence against protesters.

“The United States welcomes the government of Bahrain‘s statements that it will investigate these deaths and that it will take legal action against any unjustified use of force by Bahraini security forces,” Mr. Crowley said. “We urge that it follow through on these statements as quickly as possible.”

Bahrain is a linchpin to the U.S. military framework in the Gulf. The 5th Fleet base is considered one of the Pentagon’s major counterweights against Iran’s growing military reach in the region.

Although Bahrain is sandwiched between two of OPEC’s heavyweights, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, it has limited oil resources and depends heavily on its role as a regional financial hub and playground for Saudis, who can drive over a causeway to enjoy Bahrain‘s Western-style bars, hotels and beaches.

On Tuesday, Bahrain‘s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa made a rare nationwide TV address to offer condolences for the deaths, pledge an investigation into the killings and promised to push ahead with reforms that include loosening state controls on the media and Internet.

But the funeral procession Wednesday for a 31-year-old man, Fadhel al-Matrook, quickly turned political. Mourners chanted for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Al-Matrook was killed Tuesday as police tried to disperse people gathered for the funeral march of the first victim to die in the unrest. Both were Shi’ites, feeding the resentment in a community that represents 70 percent of Bahrain‘s 500,000 citizens but long has alleged systematic discrimination.

A wave of arrests last year against Shi’ite activists touched off riots and protest marches. But authorities are moving ahead with a highly sensitive trial of 25 Shi’ites accused of plotting against the ruling system. The next court session is scheduled for Feb. 24.

In the past week, Bahrain‘s rulers have tried to defuse calls for reform by promising nearly $2,700 for each family and pledging to loosen state controls on the media.

Similar concessions have been made by leaders in the Gulf to try to pre-empt protests.

In Oman, ruling Sultan Qaboos Bin Said announced Wednesday an increase in the minimum monthly salary for private-sector workers from 140 rials ($365) to 200 rials ($520). Last month, the sultan met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the growing political unrest in the Arab world.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Bahrain for talks last week.