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Opposition says to continue dialogue

Manama, February 18, 2013

Opposition groups have urged political societies to continue talks, saying it would be risky to pull out of the dialogue now, our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News reported.

They said Bahrain is almost at the finish line following two years of unrest and the recent escalation in street violence should not thwart efforts being made to shape the country's political future.

The statement comes as Al Menbar Islamic Society announced its withdrawal from the National Consensus Dialogue, which started last week between 27 political figures, ministers and National Assembly members.

Its vice-president Nasser Fadhala said the move follows an escalation in street violence since February 14 when 16-year-old protester Hussain Al Jazeeri and 23-year-old policeman Mohammed Asif Khan died during separate clashes to mark the second anniversary of anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain.

The society is part of the National Alliance of Political Societies - majority Sunni Islamists formed to offset the opposition during the dialogue - which is now considering pulling out of talks if violence and attacks on policemen continues.

However, opposition groups yesterday urged them to re-think their decision, adding it was important for all parties to move forward with talks to end the political stalemate. "I think it is not the right step for any political societies to pull out at this stage as we all need to be patient and continue with crucial talks," said Democratic Progressive Tribune secretary-general and former MP Abdulnabi Salman.

"These talks will reflect the future of our country and I think it is not a wise decision to walk out." His society is among a coalition of opposition groups participating in the dialogue - the same coalition which pulled out of the 2011 dialogue just two weeks into it. Salman said the coalition has denounced violence from all sides.

"There are some factions who have their own decisions. We six societies have asked all our supporters to condemn violence - but we cannot control everyone on the streets," he added. Another senior opposition member stressed that dialogue "must go on". "We have to sit at the table and continue the discussion as this is the main political role ought to be played by all societies," said National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad) member Dr Muneera Fakhro. "People should understand that even Al Wefaq (National Islamic Society) does not control all the streets in Bahrain.”

"Violence breeds violence. We strongly condemn excessive use of force by policemen and are against the killing of policemen." Dr Fakhro pledged to attend Wednesday's dialogue session with other opposition figures at the Al Areen Resort and Spa, Sakhir.

Meanwhile, the National Unity Assembly (NUA) said "all options were open" at the moment. It said in a statement yesterday that the alliance participated in the talks, despite knowing street violence would escalate, because it believed in the seriousness of the initiative. "We condemn the killing of the youth and policeman, but dialogue is the way out," said an NUA spokesman.

"The protests should not be a political cover to promote violence and terrorism. There is pressure on the societies which are part of the alliance to participate in the dialogue, and all options are open - whether walking out or temporarily pulling out of the talks." However, dialogue spokesman Isa Abdulrahman said he did not receive an official confirmation from Al Menbar on its withdrawal.

"There is nothing official yet," he said. "We look for the continuous active engagement by all." Bahrain bloc head and MP Ahmed Al Sa'ati, who is among eight legislative members in the talks, said if societies start pulling out of talks it would fuel more street violence. "We can either deal with all this in the dialogue room or let the concerned authorities deal with it in the streets," he said.

"If we stop now, we are actually encouraging violence. We all need to be patient and the public security is competent to deal with the situation,” he said. “There has been a good understanding to overcome this crisis so far and we have had two successful sessions. It is important for all dialogue participants to concentrate on their work and not let street violence affect them." He added there were some uneducated youth, who were not aware of the dialogue's process or its benefits. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Manama | opposition | National Dialogue |

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