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Bahrain national dialogue suspended over impasse

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bahrain has suspended a national dialogue that began last February but was boycotted months ago by the main Shiite opposition, a government statement said on Thursday.

It gave no indication that the process aimed at ending the political impasse in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom with a Shiite majority could resume.

The decision came after eight Sunni associations announced that they too would suspend their participation in the talks.

They said in a joint statement this was due to "the absence of a party that was invited to take part in the dialogue and its withdrawal" from the talks.

It was also because of "government stances that show their lack of will to discuss matters on the agenda" leading to "unfruitful sessions" of the dialogue.

On September 18, five groups including the main opposition Shiite movement Al-Wefaq pulled out of the national reconciliation talks after prominent Shiite ex-MP Khalil Marzooq was arrested on charges of inciting terrorism.

He was released after the trial opened but was banned from leaving the country, which has been hit by a sporadic Shiite-led uprising since February 2011.

Making Thursday's announcement, the government blamed the suspension of the national dialogue on "the five (Shiite) associations" for repeatedly failing to join the talks.

The kingdom has been deadlocked politically since February 2011, and a similar round of talks failed that year, with the government of Bahrain, which is home to the US Fifth Fleet, making no political concessions to the opposition.

Al-Wefaq withdrew from talks in July 2011, but joined the dialogue this year.

At least 89 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140109/bahrain-national-dialogue-suspended-over-impasse