Bahrain F1 cancelled; opposition leader to return
By Michael Georgy and Frederik Richter
MANAMA (Reuters) - The March opening race of the Formula One season in Bahrain was canceled on Monday, as the country's opposition prepared to press for change in country's Sunni leadership, backed by protesters camped out in streets.
The March 13 race was thrown into doubt after mainly Shi'ite protesters took to the streets of the capital of Manama a week ago, demanding political reform and energized by popular revolts that toppled the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.
"At the present time the country's entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain," Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said in a statement.
"After the events of the past week, our nation's priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together," said Salman, named by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to lead a national dialogue.
Plans by an exiled Shi'ite leader to return home raised the stakes in a power struggle in the island nation as Haq movement leader Hassan Mushaimaa, tried in absentia for trying to topple the state, said he would fly back from London on Tuesday.
Mushaimaa's Facebook page said he wanted to "see if this leadership is serious about dialogue and if it will arrest him or not." An arrest warrant for Mushaimaa is outstanding.
King Hamad has asked his son, the crown prince, to conduct a dialogue with all parties, but after a bloodshed on the streets, in which seven people were killed and hundreds wounded, opposition parties are wary.
State media later said the king had ordered the release of a group of prisoners, without giving details. The release of political detainees has been a main demand of protesters. Continued...