03/04/2011, 00.00
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Anti-govt protests end with 2 deaths in Yemen as unrest bubbles up in Bahrain and S Arabia

Calls for social reforms and democracy continue to be heard in the Persian Gulf. In Bahrain, there is hope for talks between the opposition and the Sunni king. In Saudi Arabia, two days of rage are called for 11 and 20 march. Soldiers fire on demonstrators in northern Yemen.

Semla (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Soldiers killed two demonstrators and wounded nine more in Semla, 170 kilometres from the Yemenite capital of Sanaa, during a pro-reform rally. Yemen is not however the only country shaken by unrest in the wake of the ‘jasmine uprising’ in Egypt and Tunisia.

Protesters of all ages took over again Manama’s Pearl Square, in Bahrain, on the 18th day of protest. Shias also demonstrated in the eastern Saudi province of al-Ishaa.

So far, only Abu Dhabi and Qatar appear to have dodged the ‘jasmine’ wave. Instead, turmoil elsewhere seems to have boosted their respective economies.

No such luck in Saudi Arabia, where postings on websites have called for a nationwide “Day of Rage” on 11 March and 20 March unless substantial reforms are introduced.

Hundreds of protesters marched today through the streets of Awwamiya, a small town near Qatif, the Saudi city with the largest concentration of Shias, which is not far from one of the country’s richest oil-producing region. Demonstrators called for the release of Shia leaders currently held in prison without trial for many years.

In Bahrain a major anti-government rally is also taking place. This comes a day after two peaceful demonstrations, one in favour of the Sunni-dominated government and one against it. Supporters of the al-Khalifa dynasty, to which both king and prime minister belong, met in front of the al-Fateh Mosque. Earlier, thousands of anti-government activists had met in front of the Interior Ministry, calling on the government to resign, shouting slogans like “No dialogue with murderers”.

Since protests started in the small island nation, seven people have been killed in clashes with police. Still, Shia opposition leaders have accepted an offer of talks with the king.

Abdul Jalil Khalil, a leading figure of the al-Wefaq opposition bloc, noted that his organisation would meet with the crown prince. However, “we are not going to sit together for a casual chat, but for a meaningful dialogue only," he said.

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