Saudi Plans Troop Reduction in Bahrain

Posted June 28th, 2011 at 2:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Saudi Arabia plans to withdraw some of its 1,000 soldiers who entered Bahrain in mid-March to help the Gulf island bring calm amid anti-government demonstrations.

Media reports from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday say the pullout will begin next week, but do not specify how many troops will leave. Bahrain is connected to Saudi Arabia through a causeway allowing military units to drive back home.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent forces as Bahrain imposed emergency rule which was lifted earlier this month.

The withdrawal comes as Bahrain's minority Sunni rulers say they will begin a national dialogue on Saturday on political reform demands of majority Shi'ites who led mass pro-democracy protests earlier this year.

The Bahraini government announced the date for the talks Monday, saying they will cover issues of politics, the economy and human rights.

But, the island nation's largest Shi'ite opposition party, Wefaq, has not said whether it will take part. Wefaq has expressed concern that a national dialogue will not be credible if key opposition figures continue to be jailed.

A Bahraini security court sentenced eight Shi'ite opposition activists to life in prison last week for plotting to overthrow the monarchy during the protest movement, which began in February. Thirteen other activists were jailed for two to 15 years on similar charges of sedition.

Opposition activists also have called for the release of people detained during the protests. The detainees include 48 doctors and nurses who treated demonstrators wounded in the government crackdown.

A Bahraini security court resumed a trial Monday for 28 medical workers charged with misdemeanors. A separate trial began earlier this month for 20 other medics charged with felonies.