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Middle East

Bahraini protesters hold Pearl Square, urge reform

media Thousands of demonstrators returned to Manama's Pearl Square on Saturday. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Bahraini protesters camped in tents in Manama's Pearl Square on Sunday as police held back amid growing pressure on the country's ruling family to open talks with the opposition. With the focus switching to talks rather than clashes, Bahrain's main trade union called off a general strike it had organised for Monday, saying its demand for the right to demonstrate peacefully has been met.

Protesters returned to the square on Saturday following the army's withdrawal.

Witnesses say the night passed without incident, but were wary of the security forces' return.

"We are frightened that the security forces will launch another surprise attack like they did on Thursday," said Tahar, a student camped on the square, referring to a nocturnal police raid that left four people dead.

The protests are putting the country's ruling Sunni royal family under pressure to speak with Shiite-led opposition.

Bahrain's main trade union called off a general strike planned for Monday, saying its demand for the right to peaceful demonstrations has been satisfied.

"In the light of the army's withdrawal and respect of the right to demonstrate peacefully, the general union for labour syndicates has decided to suspend the general strike and return to work on Monday," the union said.

Opposition group the Islamic National Accord Association says it refuses to meet with authorities until the cabinet quits and troops stop attacks on protesters.

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