Protesters remain in Manama’s Pearl Square

Sunday, February 20, 2011

MANAMA - Thousands of anti-government protesters camped out in Manama’s Pearl Square, as opposition parties are expected to hold talks with regime of Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, a media report said Sunday.

Inspired by popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrators say they will stay at the square until the regime collapses, Iran’s Press TV reported Sunday.

Bahrain’s opposition movement led by Shia ex-lawmakers is expected to hold talks with Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa to put the demonstrators’ demands before him.

Abdul-Jalil Khalil, a leader of the main Shia political bloc, said Sunday the opposition was considering the monarchy’s offer of dialogue, but he noted that no direct talks were yet underway. Seven opposition groups said they would meet later in the day to co-ordinate a response, Al Jazeera said.

They were responding after Salman, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the country’s armed forces, appealed for calm and a political dialogue in a brief address on state TV Friday.

On Saturday, the offer was rejected by the main opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, which says the government must first resign.

On Salman’s orders, troops and armoured vehicles withdrew Saturday from Pearl Roundabout, which they had taken over Thursday after riot police staged a pre-dawn attack on protesters, killing four people and wounding 231.

Meanwhile, tension is running high in the streets of Manama despite the crackdown and heavy police presence. The government has violently cracked down on demonstrators demanding an end to the monarchy.

Despite the government’s violent crackdown, the opposition and many Bahrainis insist on the peaceful nature of their movement.

“All political parties in the country deserve a voice at the table,” Salman said.

“I think there is a lot of anger, a lot of sadness, and on that note I would like to extend my condolences to all of the families who lost loved ones and all of those who have been injured. We are terribly sorry and this is a terrible tragedy for our nation,” he said.

The crown prince said the demonstrators are free to stay in Pearl Square.

Ibrahim Mattar, a former parliamentarian from the Al Wefaq party, says the opposition wants a “constitutional monarchy”.

Reports say at least 80 people, including children and women, have been injured in clashes between police and protesters during the latest pro-democracy rally.

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