Al-Wefaq to shun parts of Bahrain 'dialogue'

Main Shia opposition says it will shun sections of "national dialogue", which government says aims to hasten reform.

    More than 300 people were invited to attend the national dialogue, including Al-Wefaq representatives [AFP]

    Bahrain's main Shia opposition group, the Islamic national accord association (Al-Wefaq) will abstain from parts of a "national dialogue", which authorities say aims to bring forward reforms in the restive kingdom, an opposition member has said.

    The kingdom held the first session of its national dialogueearlier this week, where about 60 participants attended each of the simultaneous sessions on politics, the economy, human rights and social issues, the four themes of which the dialogue is to focus.

    "We will boycott the meetings of the economic and social committees but will continue to attend the meetings of the political and rights committees," Khalil al-Marzooq, a leading member of Al-Wefaq, told the AFP news agency on Thursday.

    "We believe the dialogue should discuss major political and security issues.

    "This dialogue will not lead to a solution... and it does not fulfill the needs to pull Bahrain out of its political crisis."

    The former MP said the dialogue participants do not fairly represent society and that those participating are not being given a chance to speak during the sessions.

    Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, on Thursday welcomed Bahrain's move to begin the national dialogue, saying it can help bring about reconciliation if it is genuine and inclusive.

    "We welcome the opening of a national dialogue in Bahrain. Conducted properly, it can be a force for stability, national healing and change," Ban said.

    'Will of the people"

    The national dialogue was officially launched on Saturday, with more than 300 people invited to attend, including Al-Wefaq representatives.

    The dialogue comes after Bahraini security forces carried out a mid-March crackdown on Shia-led protesters who had been demonstrating for reforms in the Sunni-ruled, Shia-majority kingdom since February 14.

    Al-Wefaq, which made a last minute decision to participate, only has five representatives at the dialogue, despite winning 18 out of 40 seats in the lower house of parliament in the last elections.

    Marzooq told AFP that all options were open, including pulling out of the dialogue if it fails to address "the will of the people".

    Hundreds of people took to the streets in several Shia villages across Bahrain on Thursday, chanting "Down, down [King] Hamad," witnesses said.

    Police fired warning shots to disperse protesters in Bilad al-Qadeem near the capital Manama, the same sources told AFP.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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