Bahrain's heir, opposition leaders discuss national dialogue
AFP, Wednesday 15 Jan 2014

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa met opposition leaders Wednesday in a bid revive a national dialogue that was suspended last week.

The meeting focused on "ways to overcome the obstacles that have hindered the national dialogue," designed to bring the country out of the current political crisis, the official news agency BNA reported.

Prince Salman urged representatives of the political groups to "show seriousness, transparency and credibility" in order "strengthen the rule of law and institutions," in the tiny Gulf kingdom, it said.

BNA added without elaborating that "it was agreed on the main issues to be discussed under national dialogue in a coming stage."

Bahrain's government announced Thursday that it had suspended the dialogue that began last February but was boycotted months ago by the main Shia opposition.

It gave no indication whether the process, aimed at ending the political impasse in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom with a Shia majority, could resume.

The decision came after eight Sunni associations announced that they too would suspend their participation in the talks.

A joint statement said this was due to "the absence of a party that was invited to take part in the dialogue and its withdrawal" from the talks.

It was also because of "government stances that show their lack of will to discuss matters on the agenda" leading to "unfruitful sessions" of the dialogue.

On 18 September, five groups, including the main opposition Shia movement Al-Wefaq, pulled out of the national reconciliation talks after prominent Shia ex-MP Khalil Marzooq was arrested on charges of inciting terrorism.

He was released after the trial opened but was banned from leaving the country, which has been hit by a sporadic Shia-led uprising since February 2011.

The government has blamed the suspension of the national dialogue on "the five (Shia) associations" for repeatedly failing to join the talks.

The kingdom has been deadlocked politically since February 2011. A similar round of talks that year failed, with the government making no concessions.

Al-Wefaq withdrew from talks in July 2011, but joined the dialogue last year.

At least 89 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.