Protesters in Oman set supermarket ablaze

Protesters set a supermarket ablaze and rallied at two places in this seaside town on Tuesday in a third consecutive day of unrest that has included deadly clashes in the strategic Gulf nation.

Last Updated: Mar 01, 2011, 11:30 AM IST

Sohar (Oman): Protesters set a supermarket
ablaze and rallied at two places in this seaside town on Tuesday in
a third consecutive day of unrest that has included deadly
clashes in the strategic Gulf nation.

Security forces sealed off main roads to Sohar, about
120 miles (200 kilometres) northwest of the capital of Muscat,
in an attempt to isolate the protesters and keep crowds from
swelling.
Omar al-Abri, an official at the state-run Oman News
Agency, said one person was confirmed dead Sunday after police
used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of
demonstrators in Sohar.

Witnesses said a supermarket was set on fire today and
several hundred protesters mostly young men were rallying in
the town`s main roundabout, demanding higher salaries, jobs
for unemployed youth and the dismissal of some government
ministers.

By late afternoon, protests spread to Oman`s second
largest port in Sohar. Witnesses said about 500 protesters
blocked trucks from entering the port, about 8 miles (12
kilometres) away from protest`s focal point at the roundabout.
Police did not respond to Monday`s protests, witnesses said.
State media reported Sohar`s civilian guards,
including members of women`s associations, repelled
protesters` attempts to set fire to a health center and
several commercial sites.

Oman, ruled by a powerful family dynasty, marks the
latest flashpoint in the Arab world`s challenges to authority
and suggests that demonstrations could widen in the Gulf with
protest rallies planned next month in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Oman shares control with Iran over the Strait of
Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf the route for about 40 per
cent of the world`s oil-tanker traffic. Oman also plays an
important role as a mediator between Iran and the West because
of its strong ties to Tehran and Washington.

Government media said Oman`s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin
Said, met today with a senior US envoy, Jeffrey Feltman,
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, to
discuss "ongoing events and developments" in the region. No
other details of the talks were given.

Protests have been rare in the country, which wraps
around the southeast corner of the Arabian peninsula. Still,
Sultan Qaboos is moving quickly to try to offer reforms to
quell the demands that include more jobs and a greater public
voice in the country`s affairs.

PTI