MANAMA, Bahrain, July 2 (UPI) -- Talks began Saturday in Bahrain between the Sunni Muslim-led government and majority Shiites calling for proportional representation, officials said.
King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa ordered the talks days ago in a bid to put down demonstrations that have resulted in at least 30 deaths since February, the BBC reported.
The nationally televised talks in Manama involved 300 delegates, only about 50 of which were from the Shiite al-Wifaq opposition party, The Wall Street Journal said.
When protests began sweeping Arab countries in the Middle East and Africa early this year, 18 Wifaq Shiite parliamentarians quit in protest and eight senior party members were sentenced to life in prison, the Journal reported. The party is calling for their release, along with hundreds of others jailed for protesting.
The king called in troops from neighboring Sunni Gulf states to suppress the rebellion, although most have left in recent days as the monarch has made conciliatory gestures, including the creation of a committee to investigate allegations of brutality by security forces.
Regardless of the outcome of the talks scheduled to last a month, the BBC said Bahrain's appointed senate called the Shura Council can overturn any commitments.