Bahrain opposition seeks to ease sectarian tension
MANAMA - Bahrain's main opposition group called for the cancellation of a protest march on the royal palace scheduled for Friday, to avoid an escalation in sectarian tension in the kingdom.
Opposition leaders said the plan to march on the palace in a mainly Sunni area of the capital Manama risked provoking clashes between the Shiite majority and the Sunni minority.
"We said this is something (that) will increase the sectarian issues here in Bahrain, and we are against this," Ali al-Aswad, one of 18 Islamic National Accord Association MPs, said Thursday.
"The seven political societies, they are against this march," said the MP who resigned to protest the killing of demonstrators by security forces.
Another rally is expected to go ahead Friday at Manama's Pearl Square, which has become the epicentre of anti-government movement.
Seven people have died in unrest in the tiny Gulf kingdom, home of the US Fifth Fleet, that has been gripped by anti-government protests since February 14.
Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family but has a Shiite Muslim majority which has been at the forefront of the protests.
The rallies come amid a wave of pro-democracy unrest that has gripped the region for weeks and toppled autocratic regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.
The INAA, also known as Wefaq, and other main opposition organisations have stopped short of demanding the downfall of Bahrain's monarchy, instead calling for major reforms.
Sectarian clashes were reported on March 3 but slogans calling for Sunni-Shiite unity are frequently chanted at anti-regime marches and rallies.