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Thousands march in Bahrain, demand cabinet resignation

Saturday March 05, 2011 07:58:03 AM, DPA

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Manama: Tens of thousands marched in the Bahraini capital Manama Friday afternoon renewing calls for the cabinet resignation and demanding the drafting of a new constitution.

Over 50,000 people filled the capital's diplomatic and financial district chanting their demands and emphasizing Sunni-Shia unity.

They marched from the old cabinet seat, past the strategic Bahrain Financial Harbor, onward to Lulu Square, which has become the focal point of anti-government protests since Feb 14th.

The protest demo, one of two opposition rallies Friday, came just a few hours after sectarian tension flared up between Shias and recently naturalised Sunni Arabs in Hamad Town south of the capital Thursday night.

The clashes left at least 8 injured before police managed to step in and separate the two sides.

The tension continued Friday with many residents standing guard outside their homes, while police maintained their buffer zone presence.

Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of the largest Shia opposition grouping, al-Wefaq, told the crowds that took part in the Manama rally that their peaceful action forced authorities to drop the security option, helping them gain support for their demands.

"This country is not for Shia alone, but it's the country of Sunni and Shia alike," he said urging the Shias to defend their fellow Sunnis against any threat.

"The safety of every Sunni individual and every Sunni family is the responsibility of us Shias and the safety of every Shia individual and Shia family is the responsibility of our brother Sunni," he declared.

A statement by the nine opposition groups including Islamist Shias, leftists, pan-Arab, and communists accused the cabinet of being responsible of the failure to fully utilize the country's potential in the past 40 years and of standing behind the alleged human rights violations dating back to the 1970s.

The statement also said that cabinet ministers were responsible for the deaths of seven protesters following the Feb 14 protests. It ruled out the possibility for the opposition to accept an offer to take part in a national dialogue called for by the crown prince before the cabinet resigns.

Friday's other protest demo drew several thousand people who headed to the offices of the Information Affairs Authority which oversees the operations of the state-run television, BTV, accusing the station of unfair and provocative coverage of the opposition.




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