Libyan opposition takes to streets in continued protest

Despite clashes with police that killed 99, protesters return to Benghazi court; Bahraini opposition considers opening talks.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 20, 2011 12:24
2 minute read.
Pro-Gadhafi supporters gather in Green Square.

Libya protests 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Libyan protesters have returned to a court building in the flashpoint eastern city of Benghazi, demanding the overthrow of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

Witnesses told The Associated Press hundreds of protesters gathered Sunday morning at the city's court building after a day of bloodshed, during which Libyan forces opened fire on mourners leaving a funeral for protesters. A medical official said at least 15 people were killed.

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Before Saturday's violence, Human Rights Watch estimated at least 84 people had been killed in anti-Gadhafi unrest.

The US-based Arbor Networks also reported another Internet service outage in Libya just before midnight Saturday night. The company says online traffic ceased in Libya about 2 a.m. Saturday, was restored at reduced levels several hours later, only to be cut off again.

In Bahrain, opposition leaders gathered Sunday to examine offers for talks by Bahrain's rulers after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have sharply divided the strategic Gulf nation.

Bitterness and tensions still ran deep after seesaw battles that included riot police opening fire on protesters trying to reclaim a landmark square and then pulling back to allow them to occupy the site. At least seven people have been killed and hundreds injured since the Arab wave for change reached the Gulf on Feb. 14.

Bahrain's rulers appear desperate to open a political dialogue after sharp criticism from Western allies and statements by overseers of next month's Formula One race that the unrest could force the cancellation of Bahrain's premier international event.

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Saudia Arabia urged the Bahraini opposition group to accept the Bahraini government's invitation to negotiations, Lebanese news agency Al-Manar reported Sunday. Anti-government protesters in Bahrain have refused foreign involvement in what they see as internal Bahraini issues.

The official Saudi Press Agency quoted a Saudi official as saying Saturday that "Saudi Arabia is following with great interest the current developments in the Kingdom of Bahrain. At the same time, Saudi Arabia hopes for a return to calm and stability in the territory under the guise of the government. We appeal to the Bahraini people to put forward reasonably their ideas, and to accept what the Bahraini government puts forward in return."

A leader of the main Shiite political bloc, Abdul-Jalil Khalil, said the opposition is considering the monarchy's offer for dialogue, but he noted that no direct talks were yet under way.

The protest demands include abolishing the monarchy's privileges to set policies and appoint all key political posts and address long-standing claims of discrimination and abuses against Shiites, who represents about 70 percent of Bahrain's 525,000 citizens.

JPost.com staff contributed to this report.

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