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Bahrain opposition to join national dialogue

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bahrain's Shiite opposition groups, including the major Al-Wefaq bloc, have agreed to attend the first session of the national dialogue set to begin later Sunday, they announced following a meeting.

"The opposition will attend Sunday's session to discuss the nine points" on which they had sought clarifications from the government, leading opposition member Hasan Aali told reporters after a meeting at Al-Wefaq headquarters.

Based on the response the opposition receives on their queries, they will decide "whether or not to continue the dialogue."

The opposition had welcomed the talks but also said that an agreement on the mechanism of the planned talks should be agreed in advance and the results of the talks be put to a referendum and not be submitted to King Hamad for approval.

The dialogue, aimed at ending the Gulf kingdom's political deadlock, is due to begin amid daily opposition protests to mark the second anniversary of the uprising against the Sunni monarchy that erupted on February 14, 2011.

Opposition supporters have been demonstrating for more than a week ahead of the anniversary.

On Saturday, hundreds of Al-Wefaq supporters marched near the capital Manama, demanding reform.

Later, dozens of supporters of the more radical February 14 youth movement took to the streets in several Shiite villages, chanting: "The people want to overthrow the regime" and "No, no to dialogue."

Al-Wefaq withdrew from a similar round of talks in July 2011, but said in December that it was ready for new dialogue.

Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since its forces crushed Shiite-led protests in March 2011. The unrest has so far left 80 people dead, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130210/bahrain-opposition-join-national-dialogue