Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone has given his support to the long-term future of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first F1 event to be held in the Middle East.

Ecclestone was responding to media speculation that the GP, and its venue, the new Bahrain International Circuit, had been the target of terrorist threats.

However, the Bahrain authorities have received a welcome endorsement from the head of F1 ahead of their first GP.

"We have a long term agreement with Bahrain to organise the Grand Prix," Ecclestone said. "We are extremely serious about our commitment in the Middle East and fully support the addition to the FIA Formula One World Championship.

"Nobody is immune from terrorist threats and I know how seriously the authorities take such claims. Neither the circuit nor we have received any such threats."

Ecclestone also praised the work on the circuit, which is currently ahead of schedule according to officials.

"Having visited the new circuit late last year, I have seen that the construction work is ahead of schedule and that we are on target for the first Grand Prix in the Middle East."

Officials from the Bahrain Government have also denied that the event is under threat.

"Nobody is immune from threats," a spokemans said. "The entire Middle East region is a victim to them and we take all such claims very seriously.

"However, Bahrain takes its national security as a matter of paramount importance and is working very closely with its regional and international allies to minimise any risk."

The first Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit on 4 April and is the third round of the 2004 season.



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