MANAMA, Bahrain – Bahrain’s opposition wants the nation’s rulers to guarantee they will back up their conciliatory words with actions, a Shiite leader said Sunday as he and other activists weighed the regime’s offer for talks after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have divided the Persian Gulf nation.
Streets were calmer as efforts shifted toward political haggling over demands the monarchy give up its near-absolute control over key policies and positions.
But bitterness and tensions still run deep after seesaw battles that saw riot police opening fire on protesters trying to reclaim landmark Pearl Square and then pulling back to allow them to occupy it. At least seven people have been killed and hundreds injured since the Arab wave for change reached the Gulf last Monday.
Bahrain holds particular importance to Washington as the host of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Bahrain’s rulers appear desperate to open a political dialogue after sharp criticism from Western allies and statements by overseers of next month’s Formula One race that the unrest could force the cancellation of Bahrain’s premier international event.
Leader struggles to quell protests
SANAA, Yemen – Yemen’s embattled president on Sunday sought a way out of the political crisis gripping his impoverished Arab nation, offering to oversee a dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition to defuse the standoff with protesters demanding his ouster.
The offer by the U.S.-backed Ali Abdullah Saleh – which opposition groups swiftly rejected – came as protests calling for his ouster continued in at least four cities around the country for the 11th straight day.
A 17-year-old demonstrator was killed Sunday in the city of Aden when the army opened fire to disperse a march, bringing the death toll to nine since protests began.
Saleh has already made a series of concessions, pledging that his son would not succeed him and that he would not seek another term in office.
Afghans claim civilians killed
KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces said Sunday that they were investigating allegations that more than 50 civilians were killed in a recent operation in a remote part of northeast Afghanistan.
The International Security Assistance Force denied that civilians had been hurt in the four-day operation last week in the largely Taliban-controlled district of Ghazi Abad in Kunar province.
Mohammad Shah, a 38-year-old resident of Ghazi Abad, said 70 people had been killed or injured in the operation, which he said involved Afghan and U.S. troops. He said coalition forces blocked a road to the area following the attack, hampering efforts to get the wounded to hospital.
Because of the roadblock, Shah said, help managed to get through only on the afternoon of the day after the attack. The wounded in his family included three children, ages 2, 6 and 8.
The coalition said that it had video of the incident, which showed 36 insurgents, carrying weapons, being killed. Nevertheless, it was sending an assessment team to the area to investigate the charges of civilian casualties.