Middle East
Bahrain opposition 'eases demands'
Anti-government coalition appears to retreat from demanding the king's ouster as they call for the release of prisoners.
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2011 10:26

Bahrain's main opposition groups have eased conditions for talks with the government a day after the country's king pledged to bring reforms to end almost two-month long pro-democracy protests.

The opposition group, led by the largest Shia opposition party Wefaq, late on Saturday called for release of prisoners.

It also asked for an end to security crackdown and withdrawal of Gulf Co-operation Council [GCC] troops, who intervened last week at the behest of the government.

Meanwhile, opposition legislators have held a brief protest on Sunday in front of the UN office in the capital Manama and asked for UN and American intervention.

"Prepare a healthy atmosphere for the start of political dialogue between the opposition and the government on a basis that can put our country on the track to real democracy and away from the abyss," the statement said.

Retreat from demands

The group appeared to retreat from much more ambitious conditions for talks it set last week, including the creation of a new government not dominated by royals and the establishment of a special elected council to redraft Bahrain''s constitution.

Tension rose last week after the Pearl Roundabout, the focal point of agitation, was cleared of protesters in a violent crackdown with the help of troops from neighbouring GCC led by Saudi Arabia.

Just a day before the crackdown against protesters, the king declared a state of emergency.

Authorities also destroyed the 300-foot pearl monument to wipe out what Bahrain's foreign minister called "bad memories."

Meanwhile, Bahrain has expelled the Iranian charge d'affaires, a diplomatic source has told Reuters news agency.

He was asked to leave. The Iranian ambassador left earlier. It's due to the tensions between the two countries," the source said.

In tit-for-tat move Iran has ordered a Bahrainian diplomat to leave the country, Iran's Press TV quoted the country's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying."

Iran has demanded the withdrawal of GCC troops from Bahrain and accused the kingdom of using violence against Shia protesters. It also recalled its ambassador from Bahrain on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti Islamist MPs are due to question their country's prime minister in parliament for not sending troops to Bahrain and strongly blasted Iran for meddling in its affairs.

Also on Sunday, a Kuwaiti medical delegation heading to Bahrain via Saudi Arabia has been stopped and asked to return back to Kuwait.

Iran complains

More than 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shia. Most are campaigning for a constitutional monarchy, but calls by hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed Sunnis, who fear the unrest serves the interest of Iran.

Iran, which supports Shia groups in Iraq and Lebanon, complained to the United Nations and asked neighbours to join it in urging Saudi Arabia to withdraw its forces from Bahrain.

Meanwhile, shops have reopened in Bahrain on Sunday and roads were busy again after weeks of protests.

There were fewer checkpoints in the streets, though helicopters buzzed over Shia areas.

However, masked soldiers still guard the entrances to the Pearl Roundabout.

Bahrain urged employees working in the public sector and both public and private schools and universities to return to work after days of closures and shortened hours.

However, over 2,000 mourners in the Shia village of Sitra, pumping their fists and shouting "Down with the regime" joined the third funeral procession in as many days on Sunday.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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