Bahrain`s Shiite opposition set to talk to rulers

The Shiite opposition groups in Bahrain said they are ready to talk with the Gulf nation`s rulers.

Updated: Mar 03, 2011, 22:19 PM IST

Manama: The Shiite opposition groups in
Bahrain seeking to loosen the Sunni monarchy`s grip on power
today said they are ready to negotiate with the Gulf nation`s
rulers about political change after weeks of protests.

The two-week standoff, in which seven protesters were
killed, has rattled one of the wealthiest corners of the
Middle East, where it was long assumed that oil riches would
stave off the kind of unrest that roiled Tunisia, Egypt and

Bahrain`s sectarian division, however, left it
vulnerable. The kingdom has a Shiite majority but has been
ruled for 200 years by a Sunni dynasty that it accuses of
discriminatory policies and political persecution.

Senior opposition leader Abdul Jalil Khalil said the
monarchy`s opponents will accept the crown prince`s invitation
for dialogue.

"We will talk to the crown prince, but we are not
going to sit together for a casual chat, but for a meaningful
dialogue only," said Khalil, a leader of Bahrain`s main Shiite
group Al Wefaq.

Khalil said no date has been set for the beginning of
the talks.

One of the first items to be discussed will be the
opposition`s demand that the current government be replaced in
response to the killing of protesters.

"This government has to resign because it has
committed illegal acts and violated human rights," said Ali
Salman, the leader of the Al Wefaq movement.

"We want a government of quality, an elected
government and not a government stained with blood."

The opposition had refused to talk to the crown prince
after the slayings, demanding the Sunni monarchy apologise for
the killings and dismiss a government led by the same prime
minister the king`s uncle for 40 years.

Now, the opposition leaders say they will participate
in the dialogue with the crown prince if he will back his
words with action.

The opposition has also called for the formation of a
constitutional monarchy that would have an elected government.

Currently, one house of Bahrain`s parliament is the
only elected body, but it hold limited authority since all of
the country`s decisions including the appointment of
government ministers rest with the king.

However, even the 40-member institution has been in
limbo since the 18 opposition legislators resigned last month
to protest the government`s deadly crackdown.