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Bahrain crown prince meets Shia opposition

Salman al-Khalifa heads talks with Shia opposition over ending political crisis in small Gulf state.

Last updated: 16 Jan 2014 12:08
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Bahrain has been grappling with nationwide protests since early 2011 [EPA]

Bahrain's crown prince has met the leaders of the main Shia Muslim opposition group after last weeks suspended talks.

Salman al-Khalifa led the meetings with the head of the opposition Al Wefaq group, Sheikh Ali Salman, and leaders of other opposition groups, the first high level meeting between the sides since Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain in 2011.

"The meeting was especially frank and very transparent," Al Wefaq said in a statement, adding it was held on the crown prince's initiative.

Named first deputy prime minister last year, Salman al-Khalifa has pushed for talks between the two sides and is seen to be spearheading a more reformist line in the ruling family.

Failed talks

Protesting for greater political rights from the country's rulers, Bahraini Shias have complained of discrimination at the hands of the ruling Sunni minority in jobs, housing and education - an accusation the government denies.

Repeated rounds of political talks have failed to significantly close the rifts between the two sides and the opposition is demanding amnesty for what they claim are more than 3,000 political prisoners held in Bahraini prisons.

The most recent reconciliation talks were suspended after the head of al-Wefaq was banned from traveling abroad, forcing the government to call off the dialogue.

The Shia majority are demanding a constitutional monarchy with a government chosen from within an elected parliament.

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Source:
Agencies
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