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Bahrain insists open to dialogue with opposition

The Bahrain government says reports of human rights violations on its part are "false accusations" after US President's Mideast speech

AFP , Friday 20 May 2011
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The Bahraini government insisted on Friday it remains open to dialogue with the opposition, in line with a call by US President Barack Obama in a Middle East policy speech.

The government, in a statement, also rejected "false accusations," in apparent reference to reports of abuse during and after a pro-reform protest movement in the kingdom between mid-February and mid-March.

In his remarks, Obama criticised the use of "mass arrests and brute force" in the Shiite-majority Gulf state which is ruled by a Sunni dynasty.

The Bahraini government said that "the door for dialogue has been open in the Kingdom of Bahrain since the launch of a National Action Charter and will remain so."

"It hopes that the dialogue witnesses the participation of all to achieve a national consensus through constitutional means," it added.

In his speech, Obama said the only way out of the political impasse in Bahrain was dialogue, after street protests demanding reforms ended with a heavy-handed crackdown and sweeping arrests.

"The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can't have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail," the US leader said.

"We have insisted publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain's citizens," he said.

The government slammed "false accusations," without referring directly to Obama's remarks. "The Kingdom of Bahrain ... has responded to the false accusations and wrong information on all occasions," it said.

However, it welcomed the principles aired in Obama's speech, saying they "included visions and principles that fall in line with the democratic strategy adopted by Bahrain."

Bahraini authorities have said 24 people, mostly demonstrators, were killed in the month-long unrest.

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