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Bahrain Insists It is Open to Dialogue with Opposition

Residents of the Shiite Muslim village of Malkiya, Bahrain, southwest of Manama, watch, some with stones in hand and others photographing riot police and tanks moving in, March 20, 2011

Bahrain's government is insisting it is open to dialogue with the opposition, following criticism from U.S. President Barack Obama for its deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters.

In his address Thursday, Obama said the United States has made clear that "mass arrests and brute force" are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain's citizens. He said the only way for Bahrain to move forward is through dialogue.

In a statement, the Bahraini government welcomed Obama's comments and said his speech included "visions and principles" that match what it called its "democratic strategy."

The government appeared to dismiss reports of human rights abuses on its part, saying it has responded to "false accusations."

The Sunni-ruled Gulf nation has arrested hundreds of mostly Shi'ite protesters and put dozens on trial in special courts since protests were crushed in March. Bahraini officials have said 24 people died in the unrest. The state also imposed emergency law during the crackdown, which is due to be lifted on June 1.

British Prime Minister David Cameron raised his own concerns about the situation in Bahrain Thursday in talks with the Gulf kingdom's crown prince, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, in London. Cameron's office said he stressed the importance of the Bahraini government moving to a policy of reform rather than repression.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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