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US VP Biden Urges Dialogue in Bahrain


U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has urged Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa to hold a national dialogue with the opposition on political reform.

The White House said in a statement that Biden telephoned the prince on Sunday to recognize the outreach the prince has already made to the opposition.

It said Biden encouraged additional outreach and recognized that law and order are necessary for dialogue to proceed.

Also Sunday, Bahrain's largest Shi'ite opposition group, al-Wefaq, said it welcomes a Kuwaiti offer to mediate talks between the opposition and the Sunni government.

On Friday, security forces fired tear gas at anti-government demonstrators who defied a government ban on public gatherings and took to the streets.

Security teams held back protesters in mostly Shi'ite Muslim villages near Bahrain's capital, Manama, when they tried to rally after Friday prayers.

Government forces tightened security throughout the kingdom Friday, which opposition groups set for "Day of Rage" protests demanding political reforms. Troops set up checkpoints across the country while military jets flew overhead.

Activists have been protesting for about a month in Bahrain. The kingdom's Shi'ites, a majority of the population, have been demanding greater political freedoms from Sunni Muslims who control the government and make up the royal family.

Earlier this month, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared martial law. Security forces in Manama swept through a square that had been a rallying point for demonstrators, and at least five people were killed in the crackdown.

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