Middle East News
Shiite opposition mulls pulling out of Bahrain National Dialogue
Jul 12, 2011, 17:55 GMT
Cairo - Bahrain's leading Shiite opposition grouping al-Wefaq said Tuesday that they were considering withdrawing from the national dialogue talks that began earlier this month.
Bahrain's King, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, called for the dialogue as a way-out of the political crisis that swept the Gulf island since the pro-reform protests began on February 14.
The so-called National Dialogue is supposed to be a negotiation where all political powers can come to the table and present their demands.
At least 30 people were killed during government crackdowns on protesters, according to activists, whilst the interior ministry says four policemen were killed in the disturbances. say.
More than 2,000 people had also been sacked from their jobs for allegedly taking parts in the protests.
Al-Wefaq's top leadership has now vowed to not waiver on their key demands: for a fully elected government and constitutional reforms. They also insist they will withdraw from the month-long talks if they felt the talks were meant as a delaying tactic.
On Tuesday evening al-Wefaq's four-member delegation team withdrew temporarily from the dialogue after a hard-line Salafist member of parliament, Jassim al-Saeedi, described Shiites in one of the sessions as 'Rafadah' - equating them with infidels.
Al-Wefaq 18-member bloc had resigned from parliament in mid-February in protest over the killing of protesters by security forces.
The Salafist bloc in parliament, Al-Asalah, which is also taking part in the dialogue, has meanwhile unveiled its social reforms agenda.
The 16-point proposal calls for banning alcohol sales, toughing laws governing night entertainment in hotels and clubs, among other steps the group had been trying to push through in past years unsuccessfully.
The opposition has alleged that the failure of the government to be an active part of the talks, and opening the dialogue to issues not related to the current crisis, focussing away from constitutional reforms and political liberties, will result in the talks failing.
They also voiced concerns about the large number of participants, around some 300 people, including some expatriates.
Protests demanding political reform and greater freedoms in Sunni-ruled, Shi'ite majority Bahrain began on February 14.
Bahrain, which is the home of the US Navy 5th Fleet, and other Sunni-ruled countries in the region have accused Shi'ite-led Iran of meddling in the country's internal affairs.
The claims of meddling had been refuted by the opposition, Iran, and many Western powers continue to dismiss it as a root cause.
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