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Middle East

New clashes between police and protesters in Sohar

media Security forces walk past what appears to be a dead body on a road after clashes with protesters in Oman's northern coastal town of Sohar in this February 28, 2011 still image taken from video Reuters

There were more clashes between police and protesters in Oman on Monday. Hundreds of protesters attacked a police station in Sohar. They are asking for jobs and political reform, and continued to operate roadblocks around Sohar despite some concessions from authorities.

Police responded with teargas and there were no reports of casualties in the clashes near a key intersection on the main road to the capital.

Authorities had announced the creation of new benefits for the jobless and more power for an elected advisory council. Protesters have called for ministers to be put on trial and the abolition of taxes.

Around 700 protesters also obstructed the town’s port. They took several trucks and blocked the entrance stopping vehicles getting in or out. Sohar’s port is the country’s second biggest.

This came one day after police killed at least one protester during violent clashes. There were conflicting reports on the death toll from Sunday’s violence.

A security official said that police had killed two people and wounded five others, according to the AFP news agency. While protesters said five were killed.

A government spokesperson said only one person was killed, according to the Ona state news agency. Health Minister Ahmed al-Saeedi gave the same figure in an interview with Al-Jazeera.

Oman is the latest country to experience mass protests in the Arab world. Uprisings have already led to the toppling of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. While demonstrations also threaten regimes in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen.

If you look at the cluster of them: Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, they’re all basically very rich states with per capita incomes uniformly of 20,000 dollars a year minimum, some a lot more than that. They have very large numbers of foreign labour, but the inhabitants themselves are relatively well-off. This is why its really been a surprise, firstly that you had the level of protests in Bahrain a couple of weeks ago, but even more so the protests that have broken out in Oman, where Sultan Qaboos had really got things under control. There had been quite a lot of social reform, and a lot of intrinsic wealth. And that is the real shock, Bahrain and Oman, both experiencing protests. This does suggest that there are circumstances in which it is opposition to what is seen as autocratic rule, which is at the root of it, rather than something which is adding to a degree of socio-economic division.

Q&A - Paul Rogers, Peace Studies, University of Bradford 28/02/2011 - by Rosslyn Hyams Listen

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