Bahrain accepts resignation of opposition MPs

Manama — Bahrain's parliament on Tuesday accepted the resignations of 11 lawmakers from the Shia opposition, a sign that the political crisis and sectarian divisions are deepening in the tiny Gulf kingdom.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency reported the 40-member house approved the resignations of 11 Al-Wefaq legislators. They and seven other lawmakers from the party submitted resignations last month over the deadly crackdown on anti-government protests. BNA said parliament postponed deliberations on the six other resignations.
In a statement Tuesday, the Shia opposition called on supporters to continue challenging the Sunni monarchy's monopoly on power with acts of disobedience such as public mourning of "the martyrs who died to achieve the legitimate rights for Bahraini people." Al-Wefaq is the largest of seven opposition Shia parties.
The opposition declared Saturday an official day of mourning. It also urged people to visit the graves of those killed by government forces every Thursday starting 31 March.
Bahrain's parliament is the island nation's only elected body. It holds limited authority since all the country's decisions, including appointment of government ministers, rest with the king.
Two weeks ago, Bahrain declared three-months of emergency rule to deal with the demonstrations. Mostly Shia protesters have been seeking to loosen the grip on power of a Sunni monarchy that has ruled Bahrain for 200 years. The protesters demand a constitutional monarchy that would have an elected government.
At least 20 people have been killed during a month of political unrest in the Gulf nation. Hundreds have been detained, including seven prominent opposition leaders.
Earlier this month the government invited Saudi-led troops to help quell the protests. More than 1500 troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council entered Bahrain over the causeway that connects it to Saudi Arabia, with the stated mission of helping keep order.
Shiites around the Middle East protested GCC intervention. The main Shiite power in the region, Iran, strongly condemned the Saudi-led military enforcement to help quell political unrest in Bahrain, the home of the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
On Tuesday, Iran's defense minister, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, criticized Bahrain's decision. "Governments should safeguard people and their independence. They should not invite other countries to assault and kill their people," he said.
Quoted by Iran's Press TV, he warned that the region would turn into "a center for flare-ups, hostility and clashes" if such "destabilizing and illegal" moves continue. He stopped short of threatening direct Iranian intervention.

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