Protest movements continue throughout the Arab world
Protests continue across the Arab world, with anti-regime demonstrations in Bahrain and Oman on Monday, unity protests in Gaza, and continuing popular movements in Morocco, Egypt, Yemen and Iraq over the weekend.
Dozens of protesters gathered at the US embassy in Bahrain Monday, calling for the US to press for democratic reform.
US embassy political officer Ludovic Hood told demonstrators that the US has a "strategic relationship" with the government, and repeated US President Barack Obama’s statement last month that the US supports a government initiative for national dialogue.
"We continue to think that engaging in some kind of talks is the right way forward,” he said, after handing out doughnuts to the crowd.
Protesters continue to keep vigil in hundreds of tents in Pearl Square, which has become the epicentre of weeks of anti-government demonstrations.
Protesters demanding a clampdown on corruption in Oman maintained sit-ins Monday, despite the resignation of two ministers and pledges by the government to create jobs.
Activists continued their nine-day vigil at the Earth Roundabout in the industrial city of Sohar, north of Oman, demanding the sacking of more ministers.
Another crowd has been staging a sit-in in the capital, Muscat, outside the consultative council in Muscat, the sultanate's equivalent of parliament.
Meanwhile, the international rating agency Standard and Poor's warned Monday that it could downgrade Oman's credit rating.
"If tensions were to escalate in Oman, it could lead to Oman's ratings being lowered within the next three months,” it said in a statement, adding that “if the government is able to address public grievances without putting too much burden on public finances and external investor confidence, then we believe the ratings could stabilise at the current levels."
Police on Monday detained at least six protesters at a small demonstration outside the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City, calling for unity between Hamas and Fatah.
Several hundred people held a separate, bigger protest outside the Al-Azhar University, but they scattered once police showed up, according to witnesses.
Hamas police the day before held five demonstrators on their way to rally in front of the legislative building.
A few hundred, mostly young people, took part in a pro-democracy rally in front of the Moroccan parliament in Rabat on Sunday, calling for radical political reform.
Another demonstration in Morocco's biggest city Casablanca drew several hundred people, and about 100 people turned up at a rally in the northern port of Tangiers.
Young activists have used the social networking site Facebook to call for new demonstrations on 20 March.
About 500 protesters who tried to storm Egypt’s state security headquarters in Cairo on Sunday were pushed back by men in civilian clothing wielding knives and rocks, according to witnesses. The army fired warning shots into the air, and protesters retreated to side streets.
There have been calls to abolish the State Security Investigations (SSI), the powerful regime apparatus that monitors political dissent.
On Saturday protesters attacked several state security buildings around the country as they tried to retrieve files.
Yemen's opposition Common Forum on Sunday called on protesters to step up demonstrations against the President Ali Abdullah Saleh, after he refused to resign by the end of the year.
Saleh vowed to serve out his mandate through 2013, with a close aide dismissing calls for his resignation in a statement, calling the opposition’s proposed transition plan “vague and contradictory”.
Armed supporters of the ruling party stormed a protest in the city of Ibb, wounding 61 anti-government protesters, according to a leading activist. They targeted a 12-day sit-in at Khaleej Sirt square
Tents set up by protesters in a central square of Iraqi Kurdistan’s second-biggest city, Sulaimaniyah, were set on fire early Sunday morning, according to a spokesperson, who said there were no causalities.
Protesters who had been demanding political reforms at accused Kurdish security forces of being behind the attack, a allegation that the head of security for the province denied.
Also overnight, the offices of Dank, an independent Kurdish radio station, were ransacked in the town of Kalar, according to a media watchdog.
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