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Bahrain to resume national dialogue Feb 10

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bahrain's justice ministry announced on Monday that national talks aimed at ending the kingdom's political stalemate will resume on February 10, after an earlier round failed to bring the opposition on board.

Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa said the dialogue will reconvene on Sunday after he met representatives of six opposition groups, as well as eight associations on good terms with the government, BNA state news agency reported.

The opposition groups included Al-Wefaq, the largest formation in the Shiite-majority Gulf state that is ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.

It was not clear if the government would participate in the dialogue as a party, or just preside over the talks.

But the opposition groups said in a joint statement they asked the justice minister for more clarifications on the "mechanisms of the dialogue and the parties involved, and asked for a balanced representation for the opposition."

The groups also sought details on the "agenda of the dialogue and a timeframe, in addition to the nature of the government's participation," insisting on a strong representation for the government "to avoid procrastination."

King Hamad called in January for a new round of talks in a move cautiously welcomed by the opposition which had shunned earlier invitations, as protests rumble on despite a heavy-handed crackdown on demonstrations in March 2011.

The opposition has repeatedly said it is ready for a meaningful dialogue, but has stuck to its demands for a real constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister.

Al-Wefaq, which had pulled out of a similar round of talks in July 2011, said in December that it was ready for new dialogue.

Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since its forces crushed popular Shiite-led protests two years ago demanding greater rights and an end to what the opposition said was discrimination by the Sunni royals.

On Monday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in the city of Muharraq, near Manama, following a call by the Shiite opposition. Another demonstration is planned for Tuesday.

The International Federation for Human Rights says 80 people have been killed since the start of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising in Bahrain on February 14, 2011.

ak/hc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130204/bahrain-resume-national-dialogue-feb-10-0