Bahrain opposition boycotts national dialogue session

AFP , Thursday 5 Sep 2013

Bahrain's main opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, boycotts the national dialogue in protest after the authorities issued a decree that limits meetings of political leaders with diplomats and international delegates

Bahrain's opposition has boycotted a national dialogue session in protest at what it said were restrictions by the government on its activities, according to a statement received Thursday.

The talks, launched in February and aimed at ending the Gulf monarchy's political deadlock sparked by a 2011 Shiite-led revolt, resumed on August 28 after a two-month summer break.

The major Shiite bloc, Al-Wefaq, said in the statement the opposition boycott on Wednesday was in protest at a decision by the justice ministry to limit "meetings of political societies with diplomats and international delegates".

Under the restrictions, Bahraini political groups require government approval for contact with "foreign diplomatic or consular missions, foreign governmental organisations or representatives of foreign governments".

The Al-Wefaq statement described the conditions as "restricting and irrational".

It was not clear from their statement if they planned to attend future sessions, which are generally held once or sometimes twice a week.

Government representatives and pro-regime groups taking part in the dialogue have accused the opposition of "continuous and deliberate disruption of the flow of the national consensus dialogue sessions," according to a statement on the official BNA news agency.

Bahraini authorities have accused the mainly-Shiite opposition of links to Shiite-dominated Iran.

Led by the influential Al-Wefaq, the opposition is taking part in the dialogue while keeping up street protests to call for reform in the Sunni-ruled state.

Bahraini authorities in 2011 cracked down on demonstrations in the capital but sporadic protests have continued in Shiite villages.

At least 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests erupted in February 2011, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

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