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“If they don’t come, then with whom will the government talk in the opposition?” she said.

Even the distribution of seats points to a possible Wefaq protest boycott. Just five of the 300 seats in the talks have been set aside for Wefaq, even though Wefaq represented about 60 percent of voters in parliament elections last year.

Many other seats have gone to government-allied civic groups, political societies and business representatives.

A 37-year-old engineer, who was fired from his job at a state-run company for protesting, suggested that Wefaq and any other opposition party would risk losing support if it participated in the dialogue.

“We don’t trust this government, as it never cared about its own people and always broke promises,” said the engineer, who spoke on condition his name be withheld for fear of reprisals.

Still, Mr. Salman said his group will not say “no” lightly to dialogue. Currently, party representatives are meeting with supporters around Bahrain to gauge Shiite views, he said.

“It’s not an easy decision,” Mr. Salman said. “We try to do our best, but we don’t hold the key to all solutions and there are a lot of bad sentiments in the community.”

The U.S. had urged King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s regime to meet some opposition demands. It also expressed concern about the severity of the sentences and the use of military-linked security courts against protesters.

But Washington has taken little action against Bahrain’s monarchy for the harsh crackdown, which was backed up by a Saudi-led military force that came to the aid of Bahrain’s rulers in March.