World Bulletin / News Desk
Bahrain's Crown Prince said on Friday political parties had identified five areas of "common ground" including potential parliamentary and judicial reforms, a move which could address opposition Shi'ite grievances in the U.S.-allied Gulf kingdom.
Sunni Muslim-ruled Bahrain has been shaken by persistent unrest since mostly Shi'ite Muslim demonstrators, who complain of political marginalisation, took to the streets in February 2011 to call for greater democracy.
Stalled reconciliation talks between the al-Khalifa ruling family and the Shi'ite opposition were revived early this year but later appeared to stall following prosecutions of Wefaq officials on a variety of charges.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, seen as a moderate member of the royal family, presented the five topics to King Hamad as a framework for dialogue intended to increase "long-term stability" in the country, a statement from his court said.
The five points address major Shi'ite demands including re-defining electoral districts to ensure greater representation; measures to enable parliament to question the actions of ministers, including the prime minister and his deputies; and granting parliament new rights to approve the cabinet. Judicial and security reforms were also part of the package.
Bahrain's Shi'ites have long complained of political and economic marginalisation, an accusation the government denies.
Prince Salman did not identify the political parties who had chosen the five areas but said they were participants in the National Dialogue -- reconciliation talks attended by several political groups over the past 18 months.
Six opposition groups, including the main al Wefaq organisation representing the Shi'ite Muslim community, have been participating in the talks alongside government officials, pro-government associations and several independent lawmakers.
"This series of bilateral talks has now resulted in the delivery of a framework consisting of areas of common ground identified during the talks," the statement said.
It was not immediately clear if Wefaq had specifically agreed the proposed framework. Wefaq held one of its regular anti-government protests on Friday and the opposition groups said in May that talks were "frozen".
Three years after authorities put down the initial wave of protests in 2011, mistrust between the Shi'ite opposition and the Saudi-backed al-Khalifa family remains high, and tensions have been heightened by the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Wefaq had previously said it would boycott parliamentary elections due to take place this year unless the government guarantees the vote will reflect the will of the people.Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2014, 11:47