World Bulletin / News Desk
Bahrain's government and opposition began reconciliation talks on Sunday for the first time since July 2011 to try to end two years of political deadlock in the strategically vital Gulf Arab island kingdom.
While opposition members have expressed very cautious optimism that the talks represent a meaningful step forward, they have also voiced concerns that the agenda remains unclear.
The main opposition Wefaq movement will decide on Monday whether to continue with the dialogue based on Sunday's initial meeting, Khalil Ibrahim, a senior Wefaq official, said ahead of the talks.
"We agreed with all our political parties to evaluate the first meeting and decide. We will decide tomorrow," Ibrahim said. Wefaq is the largest in a coalition of six opposition groups calling for a constitutional monarchy.
The opposition walked away from reconciliation talks in July 2011, saying they were not carried out fairly.
Wefaq has commanded nearly half the electorate in past parliamentary votes but the government has refused to budge on opposition demands to give the elected chamber of parliament the power to form cabinets.
"We hope we can reach in the first sessions a good agenda that will be acceptable to all," said Samira Rajab, Bahrain's information minister.
Rajab said the justice minister and two other ministers would attend the talks.
Of the 24 other participants, eight will be from the opposition, eight from pro-government parties and eight from Bahrain's national assembly, made up of the appointed Shura Council and an elected chamber.
"The issue in this country is between the government and the opposition. They are the real stakeholders. But there are lots of others who will sit around the table," said Jasim Husain, a former Wefaq member of parliament.
During the 2011 talks, opposition members complained that Wefaq was given only one out of 60 seats in the dialogue, the same number as very small pro-government parties.Last Mod: 10 Şubat 2013, 18:04