Bahrain rulers see slow return to normal

March 27, 2011 at 6:55 PM
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MANAMA, Bahrain, March 27 (UPI) -- Citing an easing of turmoil, Bahrain Sunday shortened a curfew on a major road and said middle schools will reopen Monday.

The curfew at a highway leading from the capital, Manama, to the country's second city, Muharraq, will now run from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., Gulf News quoted the army saying.

The English-language newspaper in Dubai also cited unconfirmed reports that the largest opposition party, al-Wefaq, has welcomed an offer from Kuwait to mediate talks with the monarchy. Kuwaiti Parliament Speaker Jassem al-Khorafi said the emir would mediate only if the opposition drops preconditions.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa by phone Sunday, reaffirming U.S. support for the prince's efforts to engage the opposition in negotiations on political reform, the White House said in a statement.

"The vice president recognized the important steps taken by the crown prince to reach out to the opposition and that law and order are necessary in order for a productive dialogue to proceed," the statement said. "The vice president encouraged additional outreach and meaningful reform that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis."

The two men "agreed that only a political solution would give Bahrain long-term stability."

Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheik Khalid Bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, told Indian, Pakistani and Filipino expatriates the government would guarantee their safety.

He condemned attacks on foreigners and said, "It is our duty to provide security and to protect you."

The Education Ministry said middle schools would resume Monday under a gradual reopening of all schools. Elementary schools reopened last week.

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