Kuwait to mediate Bahrain talks

Opposition says it will set no conditions for talks but the presence of foreign troops would be a thorny issue.

    The deadly crackdown against pro-democracy protesters has stunned Bahrain's majority Shias and angered Iran [AFP]

    Bahrain's main Shia opposition group, Wefaq, has welcomed Kuwait's offer to mediate in talks with the Sunni al-Khalifa family-run government to end a political crisis gripping the Gulf Island kingdom, a Wefaq member has said.

    Jasim Husain said on Sunday Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah had offered to mediate between the al-Khalifa ruling family and Shia opposition groups.

    "We welcome the idea of bringing in an outside element," Husain told the Reuters news agency.

    He said that Wefaq had no conditions for entering mediation talks but the presence of foreign troops in Bahrain would be a thorny matter in the discussions.

    Wefaq and other six allies had said last week they would not enter talks offered by the crown prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa unless the government pulled troops off the streets and freed prisoners.

    Husain said talks must be based on issues outlined by the crown prince before Saudi-led Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) troops entered Bahrain to quell weeks of unrest.

    These include an elected government and reform of electoral districts that the opposition says were cut to ensure a Sunni majority in parliament.

    Kuwait, which unlike Bahrain has a Shia minority, has sent navy vessels to Bahrain under the aegis of GCC to patrol its northern coast line.

    The acceptance of talks comes more than a week after Bahrain imposed a state of emergency and drove protesters from the Pearl Roundabout, the focal point of the protests in Manama, the capital.

    The deadly crackdown, which stunned Bahrain's majority Shias and angered Iran, was condemned internationally.

    Iran, which is predominantly Shia, recalled its ambassador from Bahrain in protest and Manama also withdrew its ambassador in a tit-for-tat action.

    More than 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shias, and most are campaigning for a constitutional monarchy.

    But calls by hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed Sunnis, fearing the unrest serves Iran, separated from Bahrain by just a short stretch of Gulf waters.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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