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Bahrain king announces constitutional reforms

DUBAI - Bahrain's king announced constitutional amendments on Sunday giving parliament more powers of scrutiny over government, but the opposition said they fell far short of demands for democracy that have driven a year of unrest in the Gulf Arab state.
The speech did not mention clashes between riot police and mainly Shi'ite opposition activists that have taken place on an almost daily basis since martial law was lifted in May after the Sunni-led government crushed a pro-democracy movement.The Gulf island nation, home to the US Fifth Fleet, is seen by the United States and Saudi Arabia as a key ally against non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran just across Gulf waters.
The amendments, which increase powers to question ministers and withdraw confidence in the cabinet, emerged from a national dialogue King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa organised last year after the Sunni-dominated government crushed a democracy uprising dominated by majority Shi'ites.
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