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Lower chamber speaker to head national dialogue

Al Dhahrani to send invitations for talks 'within days'

Khalifa Al Dhahrani
Image Credit: Supplied
Khalifa Al Dhahrani, speaker of the lower chamber, will chair the national dialogue scheduled to start in early July
Gulf News

Manama: Khalifa Al Dhahrani, the speaker of the lower chamber, will chair the national dialogue scheduled to start in early July.

"Based on our directives to the executive and legislative branches to call for a national dialogue and on the trust you enjoy from the members of the elected chamber and on your vast experience, we have the pleasure to task you with chairing this dialogue," Bahrain King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa said in a message to Al Dhahrani.

King Hamad said that participation in the dialogue and reaching common grounds are "the guarantee to fulfill the aspirations of the wide spectrum of Bahrainis and ensure the nation moved forward towards further progress and reforms".

Al Dhahrani, a member of the 1973 parliament and the speaker of the lower chamber since 2002, said that he would send invitations to the dialogue "within days".

"We will also announce ways to communicate with all parties, be they political societies, civil society groups or media establishments," he said. "We will also set up a website dedicated to the dialogue that will allow people to contribute to, and interact with, the issues being discussed."

Participants will work together to narrow gaps and agree on views for the sake of the nation, Al Dhahrani said.

Call for talks

King Hamad in May called for the national dialogue to help shape the future of the country after it went through its most dramatic crisis in modern history.

His call was welcomed by most local groups and praised by leaders of several countries as a positive step forward as Bahrain lifted the state of emergency it imposed in mid-March to help put an end to political turmoil and security unrest.

Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa in February, three days into the crisis, offered a national dialogue "where no-one would be excluded and no subject would be off the table."

However, the opposition societies said they would not join in talks unless a set of conditions they posed were met. Their decision however stalled the dialogue, and prompted the US to send in Jeffrey Feltman, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, to help them appreciate the opportunity.

"There is a need for all parties to work immediately to begin a dialogue that answers the legitimate aspirations of the Bahraini people," Feltman told reporters.

However, he said that dialogues required compromises. "Negotiations lead to certain results. We cannot start with results," he said.

"The message is to encourage dialogue and not allow extremists to set the agenda. All sides have extremists and they must not impose the agenda," he said.

However, the emergence in early March of radical groups who called for the toppling of the regime and setting up a republic did not allow room for a dialogue and the state of emergency was imposed.