News / Middle East

Bahrain's King Calls for Dialogue

King of Bahrain, Sheik Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa (file photo)
King of Bahrain, Sheik Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa (file photo)

Bahrain's king has issued a call for national dialogue on reforms, as his government prepares to lift the state of emergency imposed to quash anti-government unrest.

The kingdom's state-run media quotes King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa as calling for the talks to begin in early July, promising participants will be able to "freely raise demands."  A U.S. State Department spokesman says the dialogue would be a positive step.

Still, the Yemeni government has indicated that it will not ease pressure on anti-government groups when emergency laws are lifted on Wednesday.

The Justice Ministry issued a statement Tuesday warning that it will not tolerate political activity that threatens national security.

Bahrain's Sunni rulers enacted emergency laws in March in an effort to end protests from the country's Shi'ite majority.  The emergency measures gave the military sweeping powers and also resulted in the detentions of activists and journalists.

Officials say at least 24 people were killed in the unrest, in which Shi'ites demanded a greater role in their government.

The unrest has apparently affected the Gulf state's economy.  The national carrier, Gulf Air, announced this week that it has laid off 200 workers.  The airline says its bookings have dropped 25 percent this year.

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