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Wednesday, March 9, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Calling out Obama at embassy, Bahrain Shi'ites are met with donuts and candy

ABU DHABI — The U.S. embassy has become the latest target of the Shi'ite opposition in Bahrain.


Shi'ite protesters have begun holding demonstrations at the U.S. embassy in Manama this month. The Shi'ites called on the administration of President Barack Obama to support opposition demands for immediate democratic reforms in Bahrain.

"The U.S. administration should be neutral and back the demands of protesters," Shi'ite opposition activist Mohammed Sahlawi said.

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No violence was reported at the Shi'ite protest at the U.S. embassy, Middle East Newsline reported. American diplomats greeted the demonstrators with donuts and candies.

Tens of thousands of Shi'ites have been flooding downtown Manama and virtually paralyzing the Gulf Cooperation Council kingdom. Opposition sources said U.S. diplomats have been conducting a dialogue with Shi'ite leaders to defuse the crisis.

The Shi'ite protests took place after a high-level U.S. effort to bring the opposition to negotiate with the Manama government. Crown Prince Salman has urged the opposition to discuss its demands, but the Shi'ites want immediate measures, including the disbanding of parliament, new elections and democratic reforms.

"The U.S. government believes that participation in comprehensive dialogue is the best way forward and the results will require compromise and consensus," the U.S. embassy statement said.

[On March 8, Yemeni police opened fire on demonstrators who called for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. At least one person was killed and more than 60 were injured in the Yemeni city of Dhmar, about 60 kilometers south of Sanaa. Police were also said to have employed live fire against protesters in Sanaa.]

"For dialogue to succeed in Bahrain, it is difficult to define a set of outcomes or specific demands up front," the U.S. embassy said on March 7.

But groups within the Shi'ite opposition have already called for the dismantling of the GCC kingdom. At least three organizations, ahead of plans to march to the royal palace, have demanded that Bahrain turn into a democratic republic.

"This tripartite coalition adopts the choice of bringing down the existing regime in Bahrain and establishing a democratic republican system," Hassan Mushaimaa, one of the organizers, said.

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