- Associated Press - Monday, February 28, 2011

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Anti-government protesters blockaded Bahrain‘s parliament and massed outside the state broadcaster on Monday in efforts to escalate pressure on the nation’s embattled monarchy after two weeks of nonstop marches and deadly clashes.

The demonstrations appear part of a strategy to hold rallies at sensitive locations in the capital, Manama, while maintaining a round-the-clock protest base in a landmark square in the tiny Gulf kingdom.

The parliament became a target to coincide with a meeting called by the 40-member upper chamber, which is appointed by Bahrain‘s ruler. The session was delayed by several hours when protesters formed a human chain around the entrance.

From parliament, the marchers then moved to the state TV headquarters, chanting slogans that claim the reports on the unrest seek to widen rifts between the Shi’ite-led protesters and the Sunni dynasty that has ruled Bahrain for more than two centuries.

Shi’ites, who account for about 70 percent of the country’s 525,000 people, long have complained of discrimination and other abuses by the Sunni rulers.

The uprising in Bahrain was the first in the Gulf from the reform groundswell across the Arab world. But clashes since have spread to Oman, and opposition groups in Saudi Arabia have brought rare challenges to the near-absolute power of the nation’s king.

Bahrain‘s rulers have sought talks with opposition groups to ease the tensions.

However, they are under pressure from Gulf allies not to offer too many political concessions. Many Sunnis across the region fear that conceding significant power to Bahrain‘s Shi’ites could open the door for greater influence by Shi’ite powerhouse Iran.

 


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