Bahrain opposition send a letter to the crown prince saying they want a new government and constitution
Bahraini opposition groups said
on Thursday they were now ready to enter into talks with the
government without pre-conditions, but have sent a letter to the
crown prince saying they want a new government and constitution.
The opposition groups, formed mainly of disgruntled majority
Shi'ite Muslims, have led large protests in the island kingdom
since last month, but had previously demanded a commitment by
the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family to democratic reforms before
The US-allied Sunni government has made some concessions
after ordering troops off the streets under international
pressure, but a formal political dialogue has not yet started.
Six political groups led by the main Shi'ite opposition
group Wefaq want the resignation of the cabinet, a new
constitution under which the government is elected and an
investigation into the actions of the security forces.
They also seek guarantees that peaceful protests can
continue and want state media give them more coverage.
"We would like to see a declaration at the beginning of the
talks stating that in principle they agree to abolishing the
2002 constitution and ... to having a parliament fully by the
people," Ibrahim Shareef of the secular Waad group told a news
conference in Manama.
Thousands of protesters who have been camped out in Manama's
Pearl Square want an end to al-Khalifa family rule altogether.
This week they have staged peaceful marches towards
government buildings around the capital such as the ministry of
interior and the financial centre where banks are located.
Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, is part of a
string of Sunni Gulf allies of the United States that counter
the regional influence of Shi'ite power Iran.
Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad has been charged by the
king with entering into dialogue on reforms.
Government supporters have also taken to the streets. Late
on Wednesday tens of thousands gathered at a mosque in Manama to
show their support for King Hamad bin Isa.
They say that political reforms launched by the king a
decade ago have resulted in freedoms and a level of democracy
unique in the Gulf Arab region.
Faisal Fulad from the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society,
who attended the pro-government gathering, said Sunni groups
want to be part of any political dialogue as well. "The red line
for them is the royal family," he said.