Bahrain cleric: Talks must come with guarantees

MANAMA, Bahrain — A senior Bahraini cleric said Friday that any dialogue between anti-government protesters and the kingdom's rulers must lead to clear results that achieve the demands of the people.
Imam Isa Qassim issued the call for conditions to any talks as opposition supporters prepared to launch mass marches on the capital's landmark Pearl Square, which has become the focal point of the political protests pushing for democratic change. Protesters hope to keep up the pressure on the Sunni monarchy that controls Bahrain, a key US ally in the Persian Gulf and home to the Navy's Fifth Fleet.
In a sermon at a Shiite village mosque in the an anti-government hotbed of Diraz, Qassim called for talks that are "clear, comprehensive and productive." He said demonstrators want guarantees on what would be accomplished by the talks.
"We don't want dialogue for the sake of dialogue, we don't want dialogue to waste time or to absorb anger," Qassim told worshippers. "We want a meaningful, viable and sustainable process. ... We seek a fundamental change to the current political process based on legitimate demands."
Bahrain's Sunni rulers have offered to talk with Shiite opposition groups to try to defuse the showdown, but the opposition has been slow to answer the call.
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