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BAHRAIN: King calls for all-inclusive dialogue after troops fire on protesters

February 18, 2011 |  5:42 pm

After a second day of violence unleashed by government troops, the head of Bahrain's Sunni Muslim royal family called on "all gracious citizens from all sections" to engage in dialogue to resolve the country's problems.

King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa said in a statement on state-run television that the discussions, to be led by the crown prince, were open to all, without exception. He made no mention of the brutal crackdowns on Thursday and Friday that have taken at least four lives and wounded dozens.

"I urge all my sons, the sons of our beloved Bahrain, to cooperate with him truthfully and sincerely as I am certain that Bahrain will, with God's will, come out stronger thanks to the determination of its people," the king said, expressing his trust and confidence in the nation's youth.

It wasn't immediately clear how the protesters, who have been demanding a greater role for the Shiite Muslim majority in Bahrain's government and society, would react to the king's apparent overture for peace and negotiation.

The king had expressed sorrow over the deaths of two protesters earlier this week, and the regime's harsh crackdown to disperse demonstrators from Manama's central Pearl Square surprised many in this affluent island kingdom.

Analysts speculated that the Bahraini leadership was under pressure from neighboring Saudi Arabia to keep the unrest in check for fear of it spreading to the Sunni-ruled oil powerhouse, which is connected to Bahrain by a causeway.

-- Carol J. Williams