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Bahrain to Begin National Dialogue Following Protests


A Bahraini female Shi'ite protester holds a sign reading: "our demands are for country" during a rally in the village of Diraz, West of Manam, July 1, 2011

A Bahraini female Shi'ite protester holds a sign reading: "our demands are for country" during a rally in the village of Diraz, West of Manam, July 1, 2011

Bahrain is set to hold the first session in a national dialogue on reform demands made by majority Shi'ites who led mass pro-democracy protests earlier this year.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency says the talks Tuesday are expected to include government ministers, political parties, labor unions and non-governmental organizations.

They will discuss politics, strengthening the nation's economy, children's rights and the challenges faced by Bahraini women.

The island nation's Sunni rulers met with opposition leaders Saturday in largely ceremonial talks. Some opposition members voiced skepticism about whether the dialogue decreed by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa will accomplish anything.

Bahrain says 24 people, including several security personnel, were killed during a wave of opposition protests in February and March. Some of the protesters called for the ouster of the monarchy, while others called for the ruling family to grant majority Shi'ites a greater say in government.

Bahraini security forces cracked down on the protest movement with the help of troops from neighboring Gulf states. Bahrain has insisted it is open to dialogue and denied reports of human rights abuses.

Bahrain's king announced last week that an independent commission would be formed to investigate possible rights violations during recent demonstrations.

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