|Repress or be deposed, Saudi deputy FM tells Arab rulers||
A senior Saudi official says Persian Gulf Arab states must quash any Arab Spring-inspired movements or risk threats to their leadership across the region.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, the Saudi deputy foreign minister, made the remarks in a speech at the Eighth International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Regional Security Summit in the Bahraini capital Manama on Saturday, The Associated Press reported.
The comments by Prince Abdulaziz echo calls by Persian Gulf authorities to widen crackdowns on perceived opposition such as rights activists and Islamic groups.
Prince Abdulaziz’s remarks also seek to justify the intervention last year in Bahrain by Saudi troops after an anti-Al Khalifa uprising there. Bahrain remains the Persian Gulf's main flashpoint.
Prince Abdulaziz says Persian Gulf states “cannot tolerate instability” that could lead to challenges to the Western-allied leaders from Kuwait to Oman.
There have been demonstrations in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province on an almost daily basis over the past few months, with protesters calling for political reform.
Anti-government protests have intensified since November 2011, when security forces opened fire on protesters in Qatif, killing five people and leaving scores more injured.
Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia
In Bahrain, the revolution began in mid-February 2011, when the people, inspired by the popular revolutions that toppled the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, started holding massive demonstrations.
The Bahraini government promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring Persian Gulf states.
Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses accused of treating injured revolutionaries.
A report published by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November 2011 found that the Al Khalifa regime had used excessive force in the crackdown and accused Manama of torturing political activists, politicians, and protesters.
The protesters say they will continue holding anti-regime demonstrations until their demand for the establishment of a democratically elected government is met.
On Saturday, Bahrain's Crown Prince called for dialogue with the opposition protesters to break a deadlock, an appeal met with skepticism by rights activists.
Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifah, who was seen as losing influence to hardliners in the ruling family during mass the pro-democracy protests, said Bahrain must continue political and judicial reforms, Reuters reported.
“I call for a meeting between all sides, as I believe that only through face-to-face dialogue will any real progress be made,” he said late on Friday in an address to the security summit in Manama
No opposition figures were invited to the conference.
“We know dialogue would help solve the problems in Bahrain, but we don't see any positive messages from the authorities,” said Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.
“The repression is ongoing, people are facing unfair trials, activists are in jail… You have to ask -- if he is serious, why doesn't he make this address at a national level? It's just propaganda by the authorities,” he said.
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