UAE calls for Iran to `respect` Gulf neighbours

Tension has been running high between Iran and Arab neighbours across Gulf.

Updated: Apr 21, 2011, 10:39 AM IST

Muscat: Oman`s Sultan Qaboos bin Said has pardoned 234 protesters arrested during weeks of demonstrations in the Gulf Arab state, the official news agency said on Wednesday.

Qaboos, a US ally who has ruled Oman for 40 years, promised a USD 2.6 billion spending package on Sunday after nearly two months of demonstrations inspired by a wave of protests that has spread across the Arab world.

"Sultan Qaboos has pardoned 234 people accused of vandalism and damages to private property during the demonstrations," Oman News Agency (ONA) reported, quoting a statement from the state prosecutor.

ONA did not say when the detainees were released or if any protesters would face charges.

In April, Oman`s prosecutor said security forces had detained a number of protesters but did not say how many. Protesters and activists said forces had raided the homes of suspected protest leaders and arrested hundreds of people.

Demonstrations started in Oman in February but have been relatively small compared to those in other Arab countries, with dozens of protesters camping out in tents near the country`s quasi-Parliament, the Shura Council, in the capital Muscat.

Since the protests began, up to seven people have been killed in the industrial hub of Sohar, doctors said.

The government said only two had died.

Omani demonstrators have focused on demands for better wages, jobs and an end to graft. Many protesters have called for the state to prosecute ministers it sacked for corruption in response to the demonstrations.

Gulf Arab oil producers, keen to prevent popular uprisings from taking hold in their region, launched a USD 20 billion aid package for protest-hit Bahrain and Oman last month.

That job-generating measure, which will give USD 10 billion to each country to upgrade their housing and infrastructure over 10 years, was more than had been expected.

Qaboos has offered a series of job reforms, including a monthly allowance for the unemployed and pay rises for civil servants.

He promised in March to cede some legislative powers to the partially-elected Oman Council, an advisory body. But at present, only the sultan and his cabinet can legislate and a transfer of powers has yet to be announced.

Bureau Report