Bahrain protesters seek to overthrow royal family

Manama (Bahrain), Feb 21 (AP) A group of protesters ontoday called for the ouster of Bahrain''s entire rulingmonarchy as part of sweeping demands to call off the weeklonguprising in the tiny, but strategically important Gulf nation.

Tensions are still running high in Bahrain afterseesaw battles that saw riot police open fire on protesterstrying to reclaim landmark Pearl Square last week.

Meanwhile, protesters carrying food and tents pouredinto Manama''s Pearl Square Monday, intensifying their callsfor an end to the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty that has ruled thestrategic Gulf kingdom for centuries.

The protesters have called a massive demonstration forTuesday in the hope that tens of thousands of people willconverge on Pearl Square and those already there have vowednot to leave until their demands are met.

"We will stay here for as long as it takes and ...

will continue to offer food to all those here in the square,"said Qassem Hassan, a university student who was passing outfruit and water to passers-by.

At least seven people have been killed and hundredsinjured in the clashes since the unrest spilling across theArab world reached the Gulf last week.

Bahrain holds particular importance to Washington asthe host of the US Navy''s 5th Fleet, which is the main USmilitary counterweight to Iran''s efforts to expand its armedforces and reach into the Gulf.

The manifesto Monday from a group calling itself"Youth of February 14" after the day of the first marchesapparently seeks to stake out an uncompromising stance beforepossible talks between the opposition and the monarchy.

"We demand the overthrow of the oppressive Al Khalifaregime," the manifesto said, referring to the ruling royalfamily. "The people will choose the system they will besubjected to."

It is unclear how much weight the group, made upmostly of the hundreds of youth camped out on Pearl Square,carries. Nor is it clear what their relationship is with theofficial Shiite opposition that includes 18 members of the40-member parliament who resigned in protest on Thursday.

But their manifesto shows the range of demands amongthe opposition, from the all-or-nothing youth group to otherswho would let the monarchy survive but with many of its powersand privileges turned over to the elected parliament.

In the statement, the youth group called forauthorities to be put on trial for attacks on protesters lastweek and demanded an elected government.

They said the first priority should be thecancellation of citizenship for thousands of foreigners, whowere granted Bahraini nationality as part of an effort tochange the sectarian balance in the island nation.

Few policies anger Bahrain''s Shiite majority more thanbestowing citizenship to outside Sunnis, mostly Arabs but alsofrom Pakistan and other South Asian countries. (AP) (AFP)

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