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Bahrain protests grow, government slow on concessions

MANAMA, Bahrain — In by far the largest protest yet here, tens of thousands of demonstrators packed the city's streets Friday and closed a stretch of highway as they demanded that their king dissolve the government and agree to a transition to a true constitutional monarchy.

The protest — which appeared to be twice as large as one Tuesday that drew about 100,000 people — cut through Manama, the capital, from two directions, with staggering numbers for a population of just 500,000. They marched in two huge, roaring crowds from the south and from the west, converging at Pearl Square, which has become the center of the call for change.

"This is another great day for our movement," said Abbas al-Mawali, 30, a security guard who joined the march. "We won't stop until our demands are met."

But after 11 days of protests, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has moved slowly to meet protesters' demands, mainly in incremental steps. Friday, he fired three Cabinet ministers. But he did not fire the prime minister — one of the opposition's main demands. He also has not addressed democratic change.

His emphasis appears to have been on defusing the protests and repairing the damage to Bahrain's international reputation after the army fired on peaceful protesters last week, as well as on limiting concessions to ones that do not affect the government's makeup or power.


Yemeni security forces opened fire on thousands of demonstrators in the southern port city of Aden, wounding at least 19 in the latest confrontation with crowds pressing for the U.S.-backed president's ouster. Tens of thousands of protesters marched in different parts of the country, and the government's response in Aden was the most violent. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has promised to step down after national elections in 2013, but the demonstrators want him out now.


Tens of thousands rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square, trying to keep up pressure on Egypt's military rulers to carry out reforms and calling for the dismissal of holdovers from the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Demonstrators said they are worried the army is not moving quickly enough on reforms, including repealing emergency laws, releasing political prisoners and removing members of Mubarak's regime from power.


About 4,000 protesters rallied in the capital, Amman, the largest crowd yet in two months of unrest. The leader of Jordan's largest opposition group warned that patience is running out with what he called the government's slow steps toward reform. King Abdullah II, a key U.S. ally, has so far failed to quiet calls for sweeping political change. Protesters want more say in politics and an elected prime minister, not one chosen by the king.


Police in Tunis fired warning shots and teargas to disperse thousands of antigovernment protesters in the center of the capital, Tunis. Demonstrators massed in front of the Interior Ministry to call for the ouster of the interim government that has run Tunisia since strongman ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled Jan. 14 and fled into exile. Tunisia has been relatively calm since Ben Ali's ouster.

Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.

Bahrain protests grow, government slow on concessions 02/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 10:51pm]
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