Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cote d Ivoire: U.S Condemns Nationalization of Banks by Gbagbo, Posted by Meosha Eaton



Cote d Ivoire: U.S Condemns Nationalization of Banks by Gbagbo


By Williams Ekanem

The United States has condemned the nationalization of four international banks in the country saying it would result in serious implications for monetary stability and investors confidence in the West African country.
Addressing the situation on Friday at the Department of State in Washington D.C. Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs said the nationalized banks closed for business at the haet of the political turmoil in Cote d Ivoire because they were not ready to participate in irregular banking transactions to circumvent international measures against the country.

The international community put measures in place because Gbagbo refused to cede power to Alassane Quattara widely recognized as the rightful winner of the November presidential elections in the country.
Crowley stated that this political standoff continues to have a very real impact on Ivoiran citizens  who have long awaited lasting peace and prosperity after years of instability and civil war.

 The international community bolstered the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Ivory Coast to head off any potential challenge by supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo, the State Department said on Wednesday.
The U.N. Security Council on Monday voted to extend its UNOCI Ivory Coast peacekeeping mission for another six months, dismissing Gbagbo's demand that it should leave, and left open the option that it could be expanded.

France maintains a 900-member force in the country to support the 10,000-strong U.N. contingent.

Bahrain protesters occupy square, Libyans bury dead, Posted by Meosha Eaton

As reported by Reuters:

* Libyans bury their dead
* Bahrain police abandon main square to protesters
* Rights group says death toll in Libya now 84
* Bahrain union calls for strike on Sunday
(Updates Bahrain, Libya)

By Cynthia Johnston and Frederik Richter

MANAMA, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Protesters in Bahrain appeared to gain the initiative on Saturday and mourners buried their dead in western Libya as the wave of protest washing across the Arab world tested more of the region's longtime rulers. Unrest has spread from Tunisia and Egypt to Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and Djibouti, as people of one country after another lose their fear of oppressive, autocratic rulers and take to the streets demanding democratic change and economic opportunity.

Pro- and anti-government crowds in the Yemeni capital Sanaa hurled stones at each other and fired in the air, riot police corralled protesters in Algiers into a courtyard, and demonstrators clashed with security forces in Djibouti. In Bahrain, a key U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, thousands of protesters regained control of Pearl Square in Manama, after first troops and then riot police withdrew from the symbolically important traffic circle. [ID:nLDE71I0A1]

Up to 80 people hit by rubber bullets or affected by teargas fired by the police before their withdrawal were taken to a Bahrain hospital, a doctor said. The crown prince, charged by King Hamad on Friday with opening a dialogue with protesters, called for a national day of mourning and appealed for calm. He had earlier announced that all troops had been ordered off the streets -- meeting one of the conditions for talks spelt out by an ex-lawmaker of the main Shi'ite opposition bloc Wefaq. Ibrahim Mattar told Reuters the authorities must accept the concept of constitutional monarchy and pull troops off the streets before a dialogue could begin.

"Then we can go for a temporary government of new faces that would not include the current interior or defence ministers," he said. The government is led by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa dynasty, but the Shi'ite majority has long complained about what it sees as discrimination in access to state jobs, housing and healthcare, a charge the government denies. The United States and top oil producer Saudi Arabia see Bahrain as a Sunni bulwark against neighbouring Shi'ite regional power Iran.

In Libya, mourners in the eastern city of Benghazi were burying some of the dozens of protesters shot dead by security forces in the worst unrest of Muammar Gaddafi's four decades in power.
Human Rights Watch said 35 people were killed in the city late on Friday, adding to dozens who had already died in a fierce crackdown on three days of protests against Gaddafi's rule, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. A security source said clashes were still under way on Saturday in the region between Benghazi and Al Bayda, 200 km away.

The area is "80 percent under control. A lot of police stations have been set on fire or damaged," the source said. New York-based Human Rights Watch said Friday's killings took to 84 its estimated death toll in three days of protests, mostly around Benghazi, against a ruling elite accused of hoarding Libya's oil wealth and denying political freedoms. The Benghazi-based newspaper Quryna said 24 people were killed in the city on Friday, shot when security forces fired to stop protesters attacking the police headquarters and a military building where weapons were stored.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Libya to stop using force against protesters and asked Middle East governments to respond to the "legitimate aspirations" of their people. "I condemn the violence in Libya, including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators," Hague said in a statement. "This is clearly unacceptable and horrifying."

The spreading unrest -- particularly worries about its possible effects on the world No. 1 oil producer, Saudi Arabia -- helped drive Brent crude prices higher this week before other factors caused them to slip on Friday.
It was also a factor in gold prices posting their best weekly performance since December. Analysts say a difference between Libya and Egypt is that Gaddafi has oil cash to smooth over social problems. He is also respected in much of the country, though less so in the Cyrenaica region around Benghazi.

"There is no national uprising," said Noman Benotman, a former opposition Libyan Islamist based in Britain but currently in Tripoli. "I don't think Libya is comparable to Egypt or Tunisia. Gaddafi would fight to the very last moment," he said by telephone from the Libyan capital. In Yemen, one protester was killed and seven were hurt in clashes with supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, a day after five people were killed in clashes between security forces and crowds demanding an end to Saleh's 32-year rule.

Saleh, a U.S. ally against a Yemen-based al Qaeda wing that has launched attacks at home and abroad, is struggling to end month-old protests flaring across the impoverished country.
In Algiers, police in riot gear crammed some 500 protesters into the courtyard of a residential block before they could reach May 1 Square in the city centre to start a banned march.
The main opposition parties did not take part in the protest, which was organised by human rights groups, trade unionists and a small opposition party.

This, like other recent demonstrations in Algeria for democratic change and better economic conditions, was too small to rattle the authorities, but there are signs that pressure is building within the ruling group for substantial change, including a new government line-up. The political uprising sweeping through the Middle East has also reached the tiny Horn of Africa state of Djibouti, where anti-government protesters clashed with security forces on Saturday for the second day running.

On Friday, thousands of protesters called for the removal of President Ismail Omar Guelleh, whose family has held sway in Djibouti since independence in 1977. Guelleh took office in 1999 and is expected to run for a third term in April 2011. Djibouti, a former French colony between Eritrea and Somalia, hosts France's largest military base in Africa and a major U.S. base. Its port is used by foreign navies patrolling busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia to fight piracy. Unemployment runs at about 60 percent.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, William Maclean in London and Saleh Al-Shaibany in Muscat; Writing by Tim Pearce, editing by Angus MacSwan)

Facts and figures relating to the Group A World Cup match, Posted by Meosha Eaton

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Facts and figures relating to the Group A World Cup match between Australia and Zimbabwe (0900 GMT) at Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad, on Monday:

Head-to-head record
Total played: 27. Australia wins: 25; Zimbabwe wins: 1; NR: 1
In the sub-continent: 6. Australia wins: 6; Zimbabwe wins: 0
In the World Cups: 8. Australia wins: 7; Zimbabwe wins: 1


* Australia have dominated their performance over Zimbabwe, having lost only once in their inaugural encounter in the 1983 World Cup by 13 runs. There have been a few other instances when Zimbabwe did run Australia close (twice at Perth - 1994 when Australia won by two wickets, and 2001 when they won by one run), but Australia's firepower have almost always prevailed.

* The two teams have met each other once at Motera when Alistair Campbell's century had given Australia a real scare, although they eventually won by 13 runs.

* Both sides might look to win the toss and bat first, as Motera holds a slight edge for sides batting first. Out of 18 matches played at the ground, teams batting first have emerged triumphant 10 times.

* Zimbabwe's recent form has not been great (LLLWL) and they have won only seven of the 20 ODIs they played in 2010. However, what will bolster their confidence is the fact that they have beaten West Indies, Sri Lanka and India at least once during this period and they will be hoping to put in a strong, consistent performance over the next six weeks.

* Australia have lost the Ashes and might have lost their aura of invincibility as well. But as they are on a 29-match winning streak at the World Cup, no one can write them off from lifting a fourth successive title. With a 6-1 drubbing of England in the recently concluded series, a very good ODI form (WWWLW) and 14 wins and nine losses in the last 12 months, they have always been extremely strong contenders.

* Brendan Taylor has shown good form in the warm up matches for Zimbabwe, with two half centuries and a well compiled 40 against South Africa. He scored two centuries in 2010 against good quality bowling attacks of Sri Lanka and South Africa. Zimbabwe will be hoping for a solid start from him at the top of the order.

* Shane Watson has been the Australian ODI player to watch. He has had 16 scores between 30 and 70 in the 27 matches he has played in the past 13 months. He has almost always got Australia off to a good start, but has failed to convert his starts to big scores except for his 161 not out against England at Melbourne. That, along with his wicket taking ability, makes him one of the players to watch in this tournament.
(Compiled by Rajiv Gupta, editing by Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

Ivorian troops fire to disperse anti-Gbagbo protest, Posted by Meosha Eaton

As reported by Reuters:

* Ouattara calls for mass protests to oust incumbent
* Abobo often scene of violent clashes with security forces
* One wounded, Lebanese department store attacked (adds one wounded, Lebanese store looted)

By Loucoumane Coulibaly

ABIDJAN, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Ivorian security forces fired live bullets and teargas on Saturday to disperse protesters in Abidjan calling for incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo to step down, wounding at least one of them, witnesses said.

His rival, Alassane Ouattara, has called for Egypt-style mass protests to oust Gbagbo, who has refused to step down as leader of the world's top cocoa grower after a Nov. 28 presidential election that U.N.-certified results show Ouattara won. Witnesses said hundreds of youths gathered in Abobo, a pro-Ouattara area of the main commercial city Abidjan, but soldiers and police dispersed them. Abobo has often been the scene of violent clashes between security forces and civilians.

"The ... youths started assembling at the roundabout this morning. The security forces came in armoured vehicles and fired teargas and bullets into the air," said Tieba Doumbia, 30, who owns a small shop nearby.
A teargas grenade landed in a local market, forcing dozens of women to flee, he said. There was no immediate comment from the military or police.

At least one protester was shot and wounded by a soldier, witness Idrissa Diarrassouba said. He also said protesters looted a large department store owned by a Lebanese businessmen seen as close to Gbagbo.
There are tens of thousands of Lebanese in Ivory Coast, running everything from small shops to huge export businesses. Many are seen as pro-Gbagbo and Lebanon's ambassador was one of only two to go to his swearing in. They are rarely targeted. The army imposed a night-time curfew across the country this weekend that will be lifted at 0600 GMT on Sunday.

Gbagbo has defied widespread international condemnation and Western sanctions by clinging to power, with backing from a legal body that overturned Ouattara's win and the military, which has crushed dissent.
West Africa's central bank has cut him off, triggering a liquidity crisis that has forced international banks to close their Ivorian operations. Gbagbo decreed this week that the main ones are to be forcibly nationalised and re-opened on Monday.

Paramilitary forces loyal to Gbagbo killed at least six civilians in Abobo last week. At least 300 people have been killed in violence since the disputed election, mostly Ouattara supporters killed by pro-Gbagbo forces, the United Nations says. "A military vehicle drove towards the protesters. They fired in the air to disperse them. I didn't see any deaths for the moment," said witness Ladgi Traore, 28, a newspaper seller.

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Tim Pearce)

Saudis, China dilute G20 Middle East text -sources, Posted by Meosha Eaton

As reported by Reuters:

PARIS, Feb 19 (Reuters) -

Saudi Arabia and China diluted Western efforts on Saturday to have the Group of 20 major world economies offer support to Tunisia and Egypt in their transition to democracy, delegates said. The diplomatic wrangle came as authorities in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen used lethal force to try to quash anti-government protests inspired by the popular uprisings that ousted authoritarian rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.

G20 president France urged finance ministers and central bankers of countries representing 85 percent of global economic output to welcome the change in the two north African Arab states and declare their willingness to provide resources to help their interim governments during the transition. "In the shorter term, France will ask you to be ready to join forces to accompany our Tunisian and Egyptian friends on the road to democracy, in making economic and social progress," President Nicolas Sarkozy told them in a speech on Friday.

Delegates said the wording of the draft G20 communique had been considerably watered down to remove any welcome of the popular uprisings but leave the offer of help. Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy with no elected parliament, strongly opposed any endorsement of the popular uprisings that toppled Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, they said.

"This sort of talk makes people like the Saudis rather nervous," one Western delegate said. "Understandably, the Chinese are weighing in as well."

Beijing argued that the Middle East situation was a matter for foreign ministers, not finance chiefs, he said.
"This is the nature of the G20, where we have democracies but also less democratic governments," the delegate said.

Most Western leaders have welcomed the popular wave sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, but analysts are nervous of how further civil unrest, economic disruption and a surge in migration will affect the rest of the world.

France, the formal colonial power in Tunisia and an influential voice with big economic interests in the Middle East, wants to see stable democracies take root in both countries, where it long had close ties with the ousted rulers.

(Reporting by Paul Taylor and Catherine Bremer, editing by Mike Peacock)

Nigeria halts transmission of Guinea worm, Posted by Meosha Eaton

As reported by Reuters:

* Guinea worm disease endemic in just three countries
* 1,800 cases remain, mostly in South Sudan
* Eradication of disease in a few years -Jimmy Carter

By Matthew Bigg
ATLANTA, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Nigeria has halted transmission of Guinea worm disease, bringing closer the moment when a disease is eradicated from the planet for just the second time in history, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said on Thursday.

Just 1,800 cases of the painful disease remain and 94 percent of those are in South Sudan, which last month voted to secede from Sudan in the aftermath of a long civil war.
Scattered cases have also been found in eastern Mali and western Ethiopia, while Ghana is likely to announce soon that that it has halted transmission entirely.

"We have a few years to go yet before we have the last case of Guinea worm on earth," Carter told a news conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta, which has spent $275 million fighting the disease.
There were around 3.5 million cases of Guinea worm in 20 countries in Africa and Asia in 1986 when the former president organized a global effort to eradicate the disease.

Few people die from the parasitic Guinea worm but it is very debilitating with fevers, blisters and extreme pain when the worms emerge from the body. It is spread by drinking unboiled stagnant water containing the larvae.
There are only 85 villages in South Sudan with five or more cases and thousands of people, mainly volunteers, are working to eliminate it, he said.

"I feel now that the prospects for rapid movement to a complete eradication in South Sudan is enhanced by the recent vote and by the ceasefire," Carter said.
Nigeria found its last case of Guinea worm in 2008 and so confident is the government that no more cases exist that it has set a bounty of 10,000 nairas (around $65) for any confirmed cases, said Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu.

He, Carter and others including former Nigerian President Yakubu Gowon were speaking before a ceremony at the center to honor Nigeria and its northern neighbor Niger for stopping the spread of the disease.
Transmission could be halted globally by the end of 2012 and by around 2015 the U.N. World Health Organization could declare the disease eradicated, said Donald Hopkins, the center's vice-president for health programs.

A global vaccination effort eradicated the smallpox virus in 1979, but one unusual feature of the Guinea worm campaign was that it was led not by a government or a United Nations body but by a non-governmental organization, Hopkins told Reuters. (Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Eric Beech)

Bahrain army withdrawn, police attack protesters, Posted by Meosha Eaton

* Army ordered to stand down, police to keep order
* Police disperse protesters trying to regain Pearl Square
* Shi'ite bloc wanted troop withdrawal before any dialogue
(Recasts, adds Shi'ite MPs, union strike call, hospital)
By Cynthia Johnston and Frederik Richter

MANAMA, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Bahraini troops and armoured vehicles on Saturday rolled out of a Manama square that had been a base for anti-government protesters, meeting one opposition condition for a dialogue proposed by the king. But when a few protesters tried to regain their former stronghold in Pearl Square, police beat them back. At least 100 riot police took up position, while a group of about 50 demonstrators stood about 50 metres (yards) away. One man raced to the centre of the traffic circle, fell to his knees to kiss the yellowed grass and began praying as other protesters celebrated. Moments later, 10 police cars pulled up and policemen beat up one protester and fired teargas. At least 100 riot police took up position, while a group of about 50 demonstrators stood about 50 metres (yards) away. Troops in tanks and armoured vehicles took over the traffic circle on Thursday after riot police attacked protesters who had camped out there, killing four people and wounding 231. Bahrain's crown prince announced that all troops had been ordered off the streets and that police would maintain order. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Factbox on protesters' demands [ID:nLDE71E1RA] Interactive factbox http://link.reuters.com/puk87r For related stories on Mideast unrest click [ID:nLDE71F0BK] Analysis on regional financial impact [ID:nLDE71E0YN] Background analysis on Bahrain politics [ID:nLDE7170WL] Factbox on political risks in Bahrain [ID:nRISKBH] Factbox on political actors in Bahrain [ID:nLDE6780D9] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^> "That's a very positive step," Jasim Hussain, a member of the main Shi'ite Wefaq bloc that quit parliament on Thursday, told Reuters. "They're trying to ease the tensions. I don't know whether it will be sufficient." Wefaq had earlier rejected a call by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa for a national dialogue to end the unrest that has rocked Bahrain since Monday, saying troops must be withdrawn first, among other conditions. Another Wefaq lawmaker said the troop pullout was not enough by itself. "There's no difference if people are killed by the military or by the security forces," said Ibrahim Mattar. "STOP KILLING PEOPLE" "We hope to hear a clear message from the government that it will stop killing people who are protesting peacefully." Mattar said the king must accept the "concept" of constitutional monarchy, as well as withdrawing the military. "Then we can go for a temporary government of new faces that would not include the current interior or defence ministers." He reiterated an opposition demand for the king to fire his uncle, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, prime minister since Bahrain gained its independence in 1971.

"We are not going to enter a dialogue as Shi'ites," Mattar said. "They try to put the issue in this frame. The dialogue should be with all people who were protesting. Some are liberal, non-Islamic. Some are Sunni and some Shi'ite." Shi'ites, who make up about 70 percent of Bahraini nationals feel cut out of decision-making in the Sunni-ruled state and complain of discrimination in access to state jobs and housing. On Friday, the king offered a national dialogue with all parties to try to end the turmoil fuelled by Shi'ite grievances in which six people have been killed and hundreds wounded. U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to King Hamad on Friday, condemning the violence and urging the government to show restraint and respect the rights of its people. MILITARY ORDERED TO WITHDRAW "Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, has ordered the withdrawal of all military from the streets of Bahrain with immediate effect," a statement said on Saturday. "The Bahrain police force will continue to oversee law and order."

More than 60 people were in hospital with wounds sustained on Friday when security forces fired on protesters as they headed to Pearl Square, then still in military hands. Also on Friday, Shi'ite mourners buried the four people killed in the raid on Pearl Square, which protesters had hoped to turn into a base like Cairo's Tahrir Square, the heart of a revolt that ousted Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced concern about reports on violence by the security forces. "I urge the Bahraini authorities to respect fundamental human rights including freedom of expression and the right to assemble freely," she said, appealing to all parties to use restraint.

Young activists had also called for an open-ended strike from Sunday and the closure of all public and private schools on a Facebook page called the "February 14 revolution in Bahrain". They demanded that protesters be allowed back into Pearl Square, the release of all political prisoners and word on the fate of missing people, as well as the resignations of the defence and interior ministers and the security chief. A naval base near Manama that hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet helps the United States to project power across the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Fleet spokesman said there was no significant impact on operations and Jennifer Stride, spokeswoman for the U.S. naval base, said no evacuation of families was planned. The United States is caught between the desire for stability in an ally seen as a bulwark against Iran and the need to uphold the people's right to express their grievances. The unrest in Bahrain, a minor non-OPEC oil producer and regional banking hub, has shaken confidence in the economy. In 1999, King Hamad introduced a constitution allowing elections for a parliament with some powers, but royals still dominate a cabinet led by the king's uncle for 40 years.

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy in Manama, Ross Colvin in Washington and Charlie Dunmore in Brussels; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Bahrain opposition rejects talks until army stops shooting 50 people were injured in protests Friday; demonstrators expected to try to occupy Pearl Square again Saturday , Posted by Meosha Eaton

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Bahrain police teargas protesters, Libyans clash, Posted by Meosha Eaton

As reported by Reuters:

* Libyans take to streets after protesters killed
* Bahrain opposition bloc snubs king's offer of talks
* Rights group says death toll in Libya now 84
(Updates Bahrain, Libya, adds Yemen, Algeria, UK's Hague)

By Cynthia Johnston and Frederik Richter
MANAMA, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Two of the Middle East's most entrenched rulers were battling to quell unrest on Saturday after security forces killed dozens of protesters in Libya and police fired teargas at demonstrators in the Bahraini capital.

Unrest has spread from Tunisia and Egypt to Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and Djibouti, as people of one country after another shed their fear of oppressive, autocratic rulers and took to the streets demanding democratic change and economic opportunity. Protesters in Algiers on Saturday were surrounded by police and corralled into a courtyard, pro- and anti-government crowds in the Yemeni capital Sanaa hurled stones at each other, and protesters clashed with security forces in Djibouti.

Libyan security forces killed 35 people in the eastern city of Benghazi late on Friday, Human Rights Watch cited witnesses and hospital sources as saying, in the worst violence of Muammar Gaddafi's four decades in power. Protests against Gaddafi's rule this week, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, were met with a fierce security crackdown, especially in the restive east around Benghazi. A security source said clashes were still under way on Saturday in the region between Benghazi and Al Bayda, 200 km away, where local people said security forces had killed dozens of people in the past 72 hours.

The area is "80 percent under control ... a lot of police stations have been set on fire or damaged," the source said. New York-based Human Rights Watch said Friday's killings took to 84 its estimate for the death toll in three days of protests, mostly around Benghazi, against a ruling elite accused of hoarding Libya's oil wealth and denying political freedoms. It said the deaths in the city, 1,000 km (600 miles) east of Tripoli, happened when security forces opened fire on people protesting after funeral processions for people killed in earlier violence. There was no official word on the death toll.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Libya to stop using force against protesters and asked Middle East governments to respond to the "legitimate aspirations" of their people.
"I condemn the violence in Libya, including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators," Hague said in a statement. "This is clearly unacceptable and horrifying."
In Bahrain, a key U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, troops and armoured vehicles left a Manama square that had been a base for anti-government protesters, hours after opposition groups rejected a royal call for dialogue unless the military stood down.

Police firing teargas beat back the few demonstrators who tried to move back into their former stronghold in Pearl Square after the army pullout. The crown prince, charged by King Hamad on Friday with opening a dialogue with the protesters, announced that all troops had been ordered off the streets and that police would maintain order. The announcement met one of the conditions for talks spelt out by a Shi'ite ex-lawmer of the main Shi'ite opposition bloc, Wefax, which quit parliament on Thursday.

Ibrahim Mattar told Reuters the authorities must "accept the concept of constitutional monarchy" and pull troops off the streets before a dialogue could begin. "Then we can go for a temporary government of new faces that would not include the current interior or defence ministers," he said.
The government is led by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa dynasty, but the majority Shi'ite population has long complained about what it sees as discrimination in access to state jobs, housing and healthcare, a charge the government denies. The United States and top oil producer Saudi Arabia see Bahrain as a Sunni bulwark against neighbouring Shi'ite regional power Iran.

The spreading unrest -- particularly worries about its possible effects on the world No. 1 oil producer, Saudi Arabia -- helped drive Brent crude prices higher this week before other factors caused them to slip on Friday.
It was also a factor in gold prices posting their best weekly performance since December.
Analysts say a key difference between Libya and Egypt is that Gaddafi has oil cash to smooth over social problems. He is also respected in much of the country, though less so in the Cyrenaica region around Benghazi.

"There is no national uprising," said Noman Benotman, a former opposition Libyan Islamist based in Britain but currently in Tripoli. "I don't think Libya is comparable to Egypt or Tunisia. Gaddafi would fight to the very last moment," he said by telephone from the Libyan capital.

In Yemen, supporters and opponents of the government threw stones at each other and fired shots in the air in Sanaa, a day after five people were killed and dozens wounded in clashes in several towns between security forces and crowds demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule. Saleh, a U.S. ally against a Yemen-based al Qaeda wing that has launched attacks at home and abroad, is struggling to end month-old protests flaring across his impoverished country. In Algiers, police in riot gear crammed some 500 protesters into the courtyard of a residential block before they could reach May 1 Square in the city centre.

The main opposition parties did not take part in the banned protest, which was organised by human rights groups, some trade unionists and a small opposition party.

This, like other recent demonstrations in Algeria for democratic change and better economic conditions, was too small to rattle the authorities, but there have been signs that pressure is building within the ruling group for substantial change, including a new government line-up.

The political uprising sweeping through the Middle East has also reached the tiny Horn of Africa state of Djibouti, where anti-government protesters clashed with security forces on Saturday for the second day running.

On Friday, thousands of protesters called for the removal of President Ismail Omar Guelleh, whose family has held sway in Djibouti since independence in 1977. Guelleh took office in 1999 and is expected to run for a third term in April 2011.

Djibouti, a former French colony between Eritrea and Somalia, hosts France's largest military base in Africa and a major U.S. base. Its port is used by foreign navies patrolling busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia to fight piracy. Unemployment runs at about 60 percent.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, William Maclean in London and Saleh Al-Shaibany in Muscat; Writing by Tim Pearce, )