Arab leaders to meet in Baghdad

Uprisings in region knock two presidents from power

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Bahrain’s security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets Monday at thousands of anti-government protesters, heeding calls to unite in a major rally and bring the Arab reform wave to the Gulf for the first time.

The punishing tactics by authorities underscore the sharply rising tensions in the tiny island kingdom, a strategic Western ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

In Yemen, protesters held a fourth day of demonstrations, demanding political reforms and the ouster of pro-American President Ali Abdullah Saleh. More than 1,000 university students, civil rights activists and lawmakers marched in the capital, Sanaa.

“A revolution of free opinion. A revolution of freedom. We who decide,” shouted the protesters.

Meanwhile, Algeria lifted a 19-year-old state of emergency, as Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci dismissed concerns that weekend protests could escalate into massive demands for reform.

A state of emergency has been in force in Algeria since 1992 and the government has come under pressure from opponents, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, to ditch emergency laws.

Several hundred protesters took to the streets in Algiers on Saturday and opposition groups said they would demonstrate every weekend until the government is changed.

Tunisia is still dealing with the aftermath of last month’s demonstrations, as tens of thousands of Tunisians continue fleeing to Europe to escape the instability in the North African nation.

Government officials met with chief diplomats of the European Union and Italy, the destination for the majority of the Tunisian refugees.

Around 5,000 asylum seekers have landed on the remote Italian island of Lampedusa in the past week.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni triggered a diplomatic row over the weekend by calling for Italian police to be sent to Tunisia to tackle the problem at its root.

The Tunis government called his comments “unacceptable.”

In a statement issued Monday, Tunisia said it is willing to “cooperate with fraternal countries in order to identify solutions to this phenomenon.”

From combined dispatches

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