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Bahrain opposition weighs offer on talks

MANAMA, Bahrain — Bahrain's opposition wants the nation's rulers to guarantee they will back up their conciliatory words with actions, a Shiite leader said Sunday as he and other activists weighed the regime's offer for talks after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have divided the gulf nation.

"Yesterday you kill people and today you want them to sit with you. It's not that easy," said a leader of the main Shiite opposition group Al Wefaq, Abdul-Jalil Khalil. He said no talks have taken place yet.

The streets in the tiny but strategically important island kingdom were calmer as efforts shifted toward political haggling over demands the monarchy give up its control over key policies and positions.

Bahrain holds particular importance to Washington as the host of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is the main U.S. military counterweight to Iran's efforts to expand its armed forces and reach into the gulf.


Embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday sought a way out of the political crisis gripping his impoverished Arab nation, offering to oversee a dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition to defuse the standoff with protesters demanding his ouster.

The offer by the U.S.-backed Saleh — which opposition groups swiftly rejected — came as protests calling for his ouster continued in at least four cities around the country for the 11th straight day.

A 17-year-old demonstrator was killed Sunday evening in the port city of Aden when the army opened fire to disperse a march there, bringing the death toll to nine since the protests began.


In what is being called an unprecedented show of political unity and strength, tens of thousands of protesters from various political strains marched peacefully in cities and towns across Morocco on Sunday demanding rapid political reform.

The rallies, marchers said, were aimed at gaining democratic rights in a nation that has long been a hereditary monarchy. "We no longer want to be subjects," said Abdelilah Benabdeslam, a leader of the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights. "We want to be citizens."


Tunisia's government asked Saudi Arabia on Sunday whether its exiled former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is dead, and demanded his extradition if he is still alive, as thousands protested in the capital, Tunis, demanding that the caretaker government resigns.

Ben Ali, 74, fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14, following a massive popular uprising that ended his 23-year rule. The government said it wants him to stand trial "for his implication in severe crimes."


Algerian police thwarted a rally by thousands of pro-democracy supporters in Algiers, breaking up the crowd into isolated groups to keep them from marching.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has promised to lift a state of emergency that has been in place since early 1992 to combat a budding insurgency by Islamist extremists. Bouteflika has warned, however, that a long-standing ban on protests would remain.

Information from the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

Bahrain opposition weighs offer on talks 02/20/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 20, 2011 10:48pm]
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