…from beneath the crooked bough, witness 230 years of brutal tyranny by the al Khalifas come to an end
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Bahrain government, US and Al Wefaq appear smug, pleased with al Khalifa power broker arrangment as al Khalifa Security Forces attack villages and protesters that rejected talks

Protests against Bahrain ‘national dialogue’
Reports that police have fired tear gas at protesters denouncing reconciliation talks between government and opposition.
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2011 15:38 – AlJazeera

Witnesses in Bahrain say riot police have fired tear gas at protesters who were denouncing reconciliation talks between the Gulf kingdom’s Sunni rulers and the Shia opposition.

The renewed violences came late on Saturday, hours after opposition and pro-government groups began talks aimed at healing the deep rifts caused after protests earlier this year were brutally repressed.

The protesters gathered near a landmark square in the capital Manama, that had been the epicentre of the pro-democracy uprising that began in February.

The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of harassment by authorities.

Scepticism over national dialogue

The opposition has expressed scepticism over whether the national dialogue, decreed by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, can accomplish anything, noting that it only has 35 of the 300 seats at the bargaining table.

“We start without conditions or limits, our only condition is accepting one another,” Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Dhahrani, chairman of the dialogue and also a speaker of parliament, said on Saturday.

Isa Abdulrahman, a government spokesperson, said the environment in Bahrain is conducive to fruitful negotiations between the Sunni ruling elite and the opposition.

He described the “the high turnout” to the talks as a testament to the absence of concerns for participants.

“When you reach a percentage of 94 per cent of the people that you have invited to attend the dialogue, they have accepted, willingly, to take part in the dialogue,” he said.

Abdulrahman said around 80 per cent of participants have submitted proposals that will be discussed over the coming month.

The Gulf Arab kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia is strategically important, hosting the headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Washington was encouraged by “the decision of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest opposition political society, to join the national dialogue recently announced by King Hamad,” Mark Toner, a spokesperson for the US state department, said.

Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled rulers in the two countries, Bahrain’s Shia, who say they are discriminated against, took to the streets in February and March to demand political reforms.

The nation’s Sunni rulers crushed the movement with martial law and help from security forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

An estimated 30 people died, hundreds were arrested and thousands of Shias lost their jobs. …more