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Mon 4 Apr 2011 01:07 PM

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Bahrain opposition paper resumes under new editor

Bahrain suspended Al Wasat daily on Sunday, accusing it of falsifying news about sectarian unrest

Bahrain opposition paper resumes under new editor
MEDIA CONTROL: Analysts say most of Bahrains state-owned media is under the control of hardliners in the royal family (Getty Images)

Bahrain's main opposition newspaper resumed publication on Monday after its high-profile editor was replaced by a low-key columnist and board member.

Bahrain suspended the Al Wasat newspaper on Sunday, accusing it of falsifying news about sectarian unrest and a government crackdown. It said the newspaper posed a threat to the Gulf island kingdom's security.

Bahrain has seen its worst unrest since the 1990s after mostly Shi'ite protesters took to the streets in February, inspired by uprisings that toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, to demand a bigger say in the Sunni-ruled country.

The official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said on Monday that Abidli Al Abidli was appointed editor-in-chief of the newspaper, replacing Mansour al Jamri, the son of the Shi'ite former opposition leader.

"The board of directors earlier decided to sack Al Wasat editor-in-chief Mansour Al Jamri, managing editor Walid Nouwaihidh, and head of local news department Aqeel Mirza," BNA said.

"The panel has also decided to elect a new board of directors within a month."

Analysts said Abidli has a lower political profile than his predecessor Jamri, whose father led Bahrain's Shi'ite opposition in the 1990s. Jamri returned from exile a decade ago after the country's king promised political reforms.

Jamri said on Sunday he had resigned his post to "safeguard the newspaper", adding staff had been threatened and attacked.

Al Wasat's printing press was damaged during the unrest and on March 17 a group of plainclothes men with weapons were in the streets around its offices, holding up production.

Meanwhile, Gulf Arab states on Sunday condemned what they called Iranian interference in their affairs after Iran objected to the despatch of Saudi troops to Bahrain.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, which groups the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait coordinates military and economic policy in the world's top oil-exporting region.

The troops sent by Saudi Arabia and the UAE are part of a Gulf "Peninsula Shield" force.