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Dr Al Nuaimi

Impasse in Bahrain’s new National Dialogue

Manama, February 25, 2013

Bahrain’s latest National Dialogue session ended in stalemate last night as opposition groups were accused of holding up the talks, a report said.

The deadlock came as they refused to drop demands for His Majesty King Hamad to be officially represented in the process, according to the report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.

It happened despite consensus being reached last week that three government ministers would play a full role in the sessions.

Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa accused six opposition groups of stalling the talks.

"What we can't understand logically or in practice is why an agreement is reached on something and we consider it done and when we move forward then those who have asked for it back down from it and demand something else," he said during a Press conference after the session.

"The government is officially represented and we are serious in our commitment and we want others to be so. We are optimistic and are looking for something that will benefit this country and for dialogue to achieve its purposes and reach its goals then consensus through reasonable demands has to be the focus.

"We are still in procedure and mechanisms and that is not beneficial to anyone because a lot of people are putting high aspirations on what we would come up with here."

Education Minister Dr Majid Al Nuaimi sought to play down the stalemate.

"The outcome of this dialogue will help our country develop and sometimes it is better to reach an understanding on something before moving ahead," he said.

Dialogue spokesman Isa Abdulrahman also stated it was too early to make a judgement on the talks.

But the National Coalition (pro-government) spokesman Ahmed Juma said valuable time has already been lost.

"Everyone was aware from the beginning that the government was the main party behind dialogue and that it has received endorsement from the King," he said.

Representatives of Al Menbar Islamic Society and Al Saaf Islamic Society, which threatened to pull out of the dialogue last week after the opposition refused to condemn street violence, re-joined yesterday's talks.

Meanwhile, opposition spokesman Sayed Jameel Kadhim denied reports that it had demanded His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, be part of the talks.

"We don't want to see the outcome go through another empty process in similar fashion to what has happened in July 2011 in the first dialogue and for that we have asked that Shaikh Khalid gets an official position from the King as his representative," said the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society Shura (consultative) body head.

Parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairwoman Latefa Al Gaoud said the demand by opposition groups was unnecessary.

"Bahrain's four components are represented here and not the leadership and the differences are between us and if agreed then the leadership will endorse them without hesitation," she said.

"The opposition's demands are dangerous because they are bringing in the final decision-maker into the fray and this empties the word dialogue of its meaning and turns it into negotiation as they want."

Kadhim admitted that participating representatives of the society are not decision-makers and that they always needed to refer to their leaders for consultations, which could be the reason why they always backed off on decisions that had already been agreed upon.

The Justice Minister commented: "If representatives of societies are not decision-makers, they can always seek consultations, but backing down on a decision already agreed upon is a major problem." – TradeArabia News Service

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