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BAHRAIN: Protesters fill streets, King touts 'national dialogue'

February 22, 2011 | 10:29 am

Bahrain A crush of protesters filled the streets of Bahrain's capital Tuesday for yet another anti-regime protest.

Tens of thousands of people marched on Manama in what CNN reported was the biggest anti-government rally since public disturbances erupted in the island nation last week, with protesters chanting "No Shia, No Sunni, only Bahraini" and "The regime must go."

Among those marching were ambulance workers involved in rescuing some of those injured in the assault by security forces Thursday at Pearl Square, the epicenter of the Shiite-lead protest movement, according to CNN.

The rally came after thousands of people attended a funeral for a protester slain last week, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, Bahrain's Hamad bin Isa Khalifa King Hamad touted a "national dialogue" and urged Bahrainis "to engage in this new process" and "move away from polarization," according to a government statement issued Tuesday.

"The national dialogue is aimed at bringing to everyone in Bahrain the opportunity to contribute to Bahrain's future path of reform," the statement said.

The statement said seven people had died during protests and 25 remained hospitalized Tuesday. Protesters had given a higher death toll, placing the figure at 10 or 11, according to CNN.

The kingdom also ordered the release of a number of prisoners and closed cases against several Shiite leaders accused of plotting against the kingdom, the country's state news agency reported Tuesday.

That cleared the way for Hassan Mushaima, leader of Bahrain's largest opposition party, the Haq Movement, to return to the country from London. Aides told CNN he was expected in Bahrain late Tuesday, but has been held up in Beirut, where he was stopped by airport security and questioned for hours.

--  Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Bahrainis march towards Pearl Square in Manama Tuesday in an anti-government demonstration. Credit: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters