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Bahrain to lift opposition ban

/ 19 June 2011

The government will lift a ban on Bahrain’s second largest opposition party, the group said on Saturday, ahead of a national dialogue to ease the kingdom’s political crisis.

Authorities have also started sending invitations to political associations, non-governmental organisations and public figures to attend the multi-party talks, starting from July 1.

Authorities had shut down Waad, a leftist party aligned with the largest opposition group Wefaq, in April amid a crackdown by security forces on pro-democracy protests.

A Reuters report quoted Waad spokesman Radhi Al Mousawi as saying the government was scheduled to lift the ban on its headquarters in Manama on Saturday and later on its office at Muharraq.

The state news agency BNA quoted the Justice Ministry as saying steps were being taken to lift the ban.

Mousawi said the group had sent a statement to the government welcoming the political dialogue, set by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and also asked for the king to look into the case of Waad’s detained leader.

Ibrahim Sharif is in prison along with several other opposition leaders, including the president of hardline Islamist party Al Haq, Hassan Mushaimaa.

Both are among 21 people facing trial on charges of plotting a coup with backing from “foreign terrorist groups”.

The government has accused the protesters of being backed by Iran. Opposition groups deny the charges. Bahraini opposition activists said Waad had been under pressure to welcome the national dialogue in return for an end to the ban. Both Wefaq and Waad have stopped short of saying they will join the talks. Some Wefaq members have said they are wary of taking part because of reports that dozens of groups will be invited.

Government supporters say groups that are not political parties should attend to represent Bahrainis who are not politicised. The opposition argues it will dilute their voice in negotiations.

Our Correspondent adds: Parties have been given seven days to nominate their representatives and submit their proposals regarding the issues which will be tabled at the national dialogue.

The multifaceted national dialogue will cover political, economic, social and legal issues. “We have taken into account the need to ensure all orientations, affinities, aspirations and interests are represented at the national consensus dialogue,” Parliament Speaker and Chairman of the National Consensus Dialogue Khalifa Al Dhahrani said, stressing the need to ensure active participation of all components of Bahrain’s social spectrum.

“The presence and participation in the national dialogue should not be measured in terms of numbers,” he said, adding: “That should rather be measured in terms of ideas and positive interaction conducive to the achievement of aspirations and hopes in this defining moment of the national march.”

He said it was imperative for the national dialogue to be comprehensive and reflect all social components — clerics representing all sects, jurists, activists and legislative and executive authorities.

He stressed the need to bridge the gap between different viewpoints to come out with joint visions and common denominators, taking into account national unity and social values for the reform momentum to continue and embrace all fields. He also urged His Majesty’s directives to be adopted as a basis for the national dialogue — being a catalyst to push the reform project forward towards a wider horizon.


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