Monday, February 28, 2011

Six killed in Oman, sultan Qaboos tries to appease the protesters

About 1,000 protesters in the sultanante of Oman blocked the entrance to the industrial area of the coastal town of Sohar in the sultanate of Oman on Monday, which includes a port, refinery and aluminium factory. Hundreds more were protesting at a main roundabout, angry after police opened fire on Sunday at stone-throwing protesters demanding political reforms, jobs and better pay. Protesters later burned the town's police station and two state offices.
"We have received a total of six deaths yesterday from the protests in Sohar," an emergency doctor at the state hospital in Sohar said. Witnesses had earlier put the death toll at two. Several said police had used rubber bullets but at least one witness said they fired live ammunition. The unrest in the northern port of Sohar, Oman's main industrial centre, was a rare outbreak of discontent in the sultanate.A supermarket was burning on Monday morning in the city after being looted.Sultan Qaboos bin Said, trying to ease tensions in U.S. ally Oman, reshuffled his cabinet on Saturday, a week after a small protest in the capital Muscat. Under pressure by the Sohar protests, the government pledged on Sunday to create 50,000 more government jobs and hand out unemployment benefits of $390 a month to job seekers.
Oman is a non-OPEC oil exporter which pumps around 850,000 barrels of oil per day. Sultan Qaboos deposed his father in a 1970 palace coup to end the country's isolation and use its oil revenue for modernisation. He exercises absolute power. Political parties are banned. The sultan appoints the cabinet. In 1992 he introduced an elected advisory Shura Council with 84 members. Protesters have demanded the body be given legislative powers. On Sunday, Qaboos ordered a ministerial committee to study increasing its authority.

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