Frosty opposition reception
to new Bahrain talks offer

DUBAI - A proposal by the Sunni authorities in the troubled Gulf kingdom of Bahrain to relaunch a national dialogue has been given a frosty reception by the Shiite opposition.


The proposal, unveiled on Thursday, has five core elements including the redefinition of electoral districts and parliament being permitted to question the premier and his ministers.


Parliament would also have a right of approval in the choice of ministers, and the authorities would commit to further judicial reform.


The security forces would also be bound by new codes of conduct.


Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad announced that the five main points had been discussed with various political groups, and were a "framework comprising areas of common ground.”


However, Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the main Shiite opposition grouping Al-Wefaq, said the new proposal "ignores the legitimate demands of the people.”


In a statement to AFP, he deplored the authorities' refusal to create an independent electoral commission, the insistence on keeping an appointed consultative Shura Council alongside the elected parliament, and the king's right to appoint the prime minister.


"The official position remains rigid," the opposition chief said.


"The royal family retains all powers -- executive, legislative and judicial, in addition to security, information and wealth," Salman said.


"The solution would be to give up this monopoly of all power and respect the will of the people."


Bahrain's opposition is demanding a constitutional monarchy under which the premier is designated by parliament in the Shiite-majority but Sunni-ruled kingdom.


Since a month of protest was forcibly repressed in Bahrain in March 2011, the opposition has taken part in two rounds of national dialogue, but withdrew saying the authorities were not making enough concessions.