Bahrain, Oman protesters call for change
Mubarak and family banned from leaving Egypt: report
- Bahraini protesters blockade parliament
- Anti-government demonstrators in Oman set store on fire
- Mubarak family barred from leaving Egypt: report
Anti-government protesters blockaded Bahrain's parliament and massed outside the state broadcaster on Monday, while Oman was the scene of a third consecutive day of protests calling for reform.
The demonstrations in the island nation of Bahrain and Oman are part of a wave of protests sweeping through the Arab world.
The protests in Bahrain appear to be part of a strategy to hold rallies at sensitive locations in the capital Manama while maintaining a round-the-clock protest base in a landmark square in the tiny Gulf kingdom.
The parliament became a target to coincide with a meeting called by the 40-member upper chamber, which is appointed by Bahrain's ruler. The session was delayed by several hours when protesters formed a human chain around the entrance.
From parliament, the marchers then moved to the state TV headquarters, chanting slogans that claim the reports on the unrest seek to widen rifts between the Shia-led protesters and the Sunni dynasty that rules Bahrain.
Shias, who account for about 70 per cent of the country's 525,000 people, have long complained of discrimination and other abuses by Sunni rulers.
Bahrain's rulers have sought talks with opposition groups to ease the tensions.
However, they are under pressure from Gulf allies not to offer too many political concessions. Many Sunnis across the region fear that conceding significant power to Bahrain's Shias could open the door for greater influence by Shia powerhouse Iran.
Meanwhile, protesters in Oman set a supermarket ablaze in a seaside town in the strategic Gulf nation as protests continued.
Security forces sealed off main roads to Sohar, about 200 kilometres northwest of the capital of Muscat, in attempts to isolate the protesters and keep crowds from swelling.
Omar al-Abri, an official at the state-run Oman News Agency, said one person was confirmed dead Sunday after police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of demonstrators in Sohar. State hospital officials had set the death toll at two. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.
Witnesses said the supermarket was set on fire Monday and several hundred protesters — mostly young men — had gathered in the town's main roundabout, demanding higher salaries, jobs for the unemployed youth and changes of some government ministers.
Police did not respond to the violent start to Monday's protest, witnesses said.
Oman, ruled by a powerful family dynasty, shares control with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf — the route for about 40 per cent of the world's oil tanker traffic. Oman also plays an important role as a mediator between Iran and the West because of its strong ties to Tehran and Washington.
Protests have been rare in the country, which wraps around the southeast corner of the Arabian peninsula. But Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, is moving quickly to try to offer reforms to quell the demands that include more jobs and a greater public voice in the country's affairs.
On Sunday, he ordered 50,000 new state positions and a monthly stipend of $390 US for each job seeker. A day earlier, the sultan replaced six cabinet members.
A high-level delegation planned to travel to Sohar to meet with protesters, who on Sunday set fire to cars, a police station and the governor's residence.
Mubarak banned from travel abroad: report
Meanwhile, in Egypt, state television is reporting that the country's top prosecutor has banned ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his family from travel abroad and ordered their funds "impounded.
The move Monday by Egypt's top prosecutor is the latest measure against the Mubaraks. The prosecutor on Feb. 20 ordered the assets of the ousted president, his wife, two sons and their wives to be frozen.
Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11 at the end of 18 days of massive protests.
Egypt's ruler of nearly 30 years, Mubarak handed power to the military, and is now believed to be living in seclusion with his family in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.