|After months of unrest, martial law is to be lifted and Bahrain's king calls for national dialogue [Reuters]
Bahrain's king has called for a national dialogue on reform, as authorities prepare to lift a state of emergency imposed during a crackdown on mass pro-democracy demonstrations.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called for talks on reform involving all parties in the Gulf Arab nation to begin on July 1, the country's state news agency reported on Tuesday.
"The king called on everyone to take part... to push forward reform for development in all areas and to firmly anchor the bases of the reform process," the Bahrain News Agency said.
It quoted the king as saying in a speech to Bahraini journalists that the talks would be "comprehensive, serious and without preconditions".
The call came as the Bahraini army reportedly pulled out of some areas in the capital, Manama, ahead of a plan to lift the country's emergency laws on Wednesday.
According to Yasser al-Sayegh, a Bahraini opposition activist exiled in the UK, emergency law has only worsened the chances for “peace and security” in the country and distracted from the protester’s demands.
“Once the king of Bahrain takes action with regard to the political reform that he promised the situation will be calmer and easier,” al-Sayegh told Al Jazeera.
Until then, al-Sayegh said, “the ending of martial law won’t make a difference; the people are going to protest until their demands are met.”
Among the demands listed by al-Sayegh were a constitutional monarchy and an end to corruption and discrimination.
Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet, faced a wave of Shia-led protests in February and March demanding democratic reform and an end to sectarian discrimination in the Sunni-ruled kingdom as some hardliners demanded a republic.
Bahrain's rulers imposed emergency law and called in troops from neighbouring Gulf countries in March to quash the protests.
At least 29 people have been killed since the protests started, inspired by Arab revolts that ousted the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia.
Hundreds of people, mainly Shia, have been arrested and dozens put on trial in Bahrain's crackdown on those who took part in protests. Others have been fired from government jobs.
Despite the scheduled lifting of emergency laws, the country's justice ministry has said that authorities will not ease pressure on anti-government groups.
A ministry statement said any threats to the nation's stability will be met with harsh responses.