An anti-government protester participates in a march held by Bahrain's main opposition party Al Wefaq in the village of Karzakan.

An anti-government protester participates in a march held by Bahrain's main opposition party Al Wefaq in the village of Karzakan. Photo: Reuters

The Obama administration will resume some military sales to Bahrain while continuing to withhold certain defence equipment because of human rights concerns.

The US State Department recognised ''a number of serious unresolved human rights issues'' and increased ''polarisation'' in Bahrain, where arrests and repression against increasingly violent protests have risen.

The decision to lift the restrictions, which had frozen millions of dollars worth of sales, was based on ''our desire to help the Bahrainis maintain their external defence capabilities, and a determination that it was in US national interest to let these things go forward'', an official said.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (R) welcomes Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa at the Pentagon on May 11, 2012 in Washington, DC. Panetta hosted the honor cordon for the Crown Prince Khalifa before a bilateral meeting.

Leon Panetta welcomes Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa at the Pentagon. Photo: Getty Images/AFP

Bahrain, the home of the US Fifth Fleet, lies off the coast of Saudi Arabia, opposite Iran.

The equipment released for sale did not include requested anti-tank missiles, Humvees, tear-gas, stun grenades and other items that could be used against protesters.

US officials would not provide a full list of items approved but said they included patrol boats, a frigate and engine upgrades for F-16 fighter jets. Other sources said the list included air defence communication upgrades, ground-based radar, missile systems and Cobra helicopters.

Some politicians criticised the decision as amounting to rewarding Bahrain for its human rights failings.

The decision coincided with a visit to Washington by Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who met the Vice-President, Joe Biden, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta.

The Washington Post