Bahrainis pour into protest square, grand prix scrapped

Posted By: Pti
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Manama, Feb 21 (AFP) Protesters today escalated callsfor an end to the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty in Bahrain aspolitical turmoil sweeping the Gulf kingdom forced thecancellation of the season-opening F1 Grand Prix race.

The mainly-Shiite protesters have called a massivedemonstration for Tuesday and expect tens of thousands ofpeople to converge on Pearl Square. Those already there havevowed not to leave until their demands are met.

And a top exiled opposition figure said he planned toreturn to Bahrain, fuelling pressure on the ruling royalfamily for reform.

"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 protesters.

"We are determined to see our demands met."

As protests raged, the kingdom announced in astatement that it would no longer host the Bahrain Formula OneGrand Prix on March 13.

The heir to Bahrain''s throne, Crown Prince Salman,said: "At the present time the country''s entire attention isfocused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain."

The crown prince has been tasked by his father, KingHamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, with launching a wide-reachingdialogue with the opposition.

But emboldened by Arab uprisings which have toppledthe strongmen of Tunisia and Egypt since last month, theopposition has raised the stakes, demanding a "realconstitutional monarchy" and the government''s resignation.

Protesters gathering in Pearl Square appearedunimpressed by the crown prince''s calls for dialogue, callinginstead for him to leave.

"Go away Salman, we don''t want you either," read abanner carried by a young protester.

Pearl Square has been the focal point ofdemonstrations that have since February 14 rocked Bahrain,prompting foreign governments to issue travel warnings.

Last Thursday, police very early in the morning asprotesters lay sleeping stormed the square, killing fourpeople and injured scores. MORE (AFP)

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