Dialogue urged in Bahrain after lift of state of emergency

13:25, June 02, 2011      

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A national dialogue has been urged and sought in Bahrain after the state of emergency was lifted Wednesday.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has called for talks on reforms in the tiny Gulf nation without preconditions as of July 1, according to Bahrain's state-run BNA news agency.

The king urged everyone to take part in the national dialogue and issued directives to take all necessary measures for this comprehensive and serious dialogue in a bid to push forward reforms for development in all areas.

Bahrain's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdulla Ahmad Al Khalifa met Wednesday with political leaders, including those of the opposition, and urged them to engage in national dialogue.

He told the representatives that rallies and gatherings are not the best way at the moment, although they are permitted by law.

His comments came at a time when anti-government protestors returned to the streets with minor clashes in Shiite dominant villages.

Riot police were deployed at all main entrances of the villages including the Pearl Roundabout (now Al Farooq junction), that had been venue for protestors since February.

The Bahraini government Wednesday lifted the state of national safety it imposed on March 15. Troops and tanks were withdrawn from the streets of Manama, replaced by policemen patrolling and guarding at some key places.

However, riot police reinforced alert in Shiite dominant villages and strengthened checks on suspected vehicles to prevent the villagers from going onto the streets to protest again.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday welcomed the lifting of the state of national safety in Bahrain as well as the king's call to start national dialogue.

"Such a dialogue will be genuine and meaningful and lead to an inclusive reform process aimed at meeting the political, economic and social aspirations of all Bahraini people," Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York.

The UN chief appealed to all national stakeholders "to work constructively towards creating a conducive environment for such a dialogue to take place."

Ban also reiterated his call on Bahraini authorities and security forces to "act in accordance with relevant international norms and standards with regard to human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The Bahraini government has warned political societies not to carry out any activity that could affect stability in the country following the end of the state of national safety.

The Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowment said in a statement on Monday that extreme moves by any party would face legal action.

The ministry issued the warning in response to recent statements by some political societies urging people to go back to the streets.

Some groups have issued statements and posted video messages on social networking websites threatening to protest again as the country was to lift the state of national safety.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, is ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family, where the majority Shiite population says they are facing discrimination in jobs and other services, claims strongly denied by the kingdom

In February and March, Bahrain was swept by anti-government protests, mostly by majority Shiite Muslims demanding more political and economic reforms.

Some protesters called for bringing down the country's ruling family and establishing a constitutional monarchy.

So far, the protests have caused the deaths of four policemen and 24 other people. The Bahraini government began to quell the protests in March with the assistance of the Peninsula Shield Forces comprised of troops from Gulf Cooperation Council States.

Source: Xinhua
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