Pro-sultan Omanis in support drive
MUSCAT - Hundreds of Omanis demonstrated on Wednesday in support of Sultan Qaboos as more than 400 activists camped outside the Gulf state's consultative council, continuing a series of anti-corruption protests.
A procession of some 200 cars drove from central Muscat to the Al-Alam Palace, one of the residences of Qaboos who has ruled Oman since 1970.
"With our blood and souls, we sacrifice ourselves for you, sultan," chanted demonstrators in cars festooned with portraits of Qaboos.
Meanwhile, some 50 people camped outside Oman's consultative council on Wednesday protesting against corruption and demanding higher wages.
Their number later swelled to more than 400.
The protesters, who set up three small tents outside the council, held banners reading: "No to corruption, no to favouritism."
No police presence was reported as the demonstrators vowed to stay until their demands are met by the government.
"Our demands are rightful as Omani citizens,"said one protester, Muaweya Rashdi, a day after the army tanks peacefully dispersed a four-day protest in the northern industrial city of Sohar after at least one protester was killed in clashes with police.
"We are demanding higher wages and social security benefits... We want transparent figures," said the electrician who receives a monthly salary of 200 riyals ($519).
In a move aimed at addressing protesters' grievances, Qaboos has announced the creation of 50,000 new jobs and a monthly allowance of 150 riyals (390 dollars/283 euros) for registered job seekers.
He also ordered the formation of a ministerial committee to draw up proposals to meet calls for the elected consultative council to be given more powers.
On Wednesday, Qaboos told the 83 members of the consultative council that he intends to "introduce reforms soon," and "promised to expand the authorities" of the elected council which has no legislative powers, said a council member.
Qaboos also considered protesters who are demanding reforms as "children of Oman who should be treated wisely," he added.
Last month, Oman raised the minimum wage for nationals working in the private sector from $364 to $520.
Normally placid Oman is the latest country to be hit by the wave of popular protests that has rattled several Arab countries and swept from power the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
Mass demonstrations also threaten the regimes of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen.
Oman guards the strategic Strait of Hormuz through which 40 percent of the world's oil supply passes and Muscat is a key Western ally in the region. Iran borders the waterway's northern flank.