Bahrain braces for more protests, Gulf states prepare to send troops

AFP , Monday 14 Mar 2011

Neighbouring Gulf States prepare to send troops into Bahrain as its popular uprising continues

A Bahraini anti-government protester gestures in front of riot police on an overpass near Pearl roundabout Sunday, (AP).

Bahrain braced for more protests Monday as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states reportedly prepared to send troops to help restore 'order' in the strategic kingdom.

The Financial Harbour business complex was blocked off by protesters a day after more than 200 people were injured there in clashes between riot police and demonstrators, residents said.

It was the worst day of violence in the tiny Gulf kingdom since seven people were killed at the start of anti-regime unrest in mid-February.

Britain's foreign office cited reports that the Saudi National Guard will enter Bahrain as it urged Britons to avoid all travel to the mainly Shia archipelago, where the Sunni monarchy is under mounting pressure to reform.

"The risk of further outbreaks of violence has increased," it said in the note issued late Sunday.

The website of Bahrain's Alyam newspaper, which is close to the Al-Khalifa royal family, said Monday that forces from the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council were expected to enter Bahrain to help boost security.

Witnesses said Shia-led protesters continued to hold a sit-in at Pearl Square just outside the financial district, while others were blocking the main highway leading to the business district.

Crown Prince Salman reiterated the government's offer of a national dialogue on deep-rooted reforms but not at the expense of security and stability, state news agency BNA reported late Sunday.

The prince supported the creation of a parliament with full powers, and also pledged to tackle corruption and sectarian tensions.

But he warned that "legitimate demands should not be carried out at the price of security and stability."

The United States condemned the violence, amid claims -- dismissed as lies by the government -- that armed pro-regime thugs are intimidating students and opposition activists.

"We urge the government of Bahrain to pursue a peaceful and meaningful dialogue with the opposition rather than resorting to the use of force," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Bahrain -- home of the US Fifth Fleet -- has become a regional financial hub as it seeks to diversify its economy away from a dependence on diminishing oil revenues.

King Hamad also reiterated an offer of dialogue with the main opposition groups, which have refused to negotiate until the government resigns and dissidents are released from jail.

The mainstream opposition says it is not trying to overthrow the royal family but more radical Shia elements have said they want to end the dynasty that has ruled the country for more than 200 years.


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