MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain reduced curfew times by four hours on Saturday and said ministries and schools would return to normal working hours after a crackdown on mainly Shi'ite protesters raised tensions in the oil-producing region.
Bahrain has arrested at least seven opposition leaders and driven pro-democracy demonstrators from the streets after weeks of protests that prompted its king to declare martial law and draw in troops from fellow Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
The unrest brought Bahrain's economy to a virtual standstill and schools and universities were closed to prevent sectarian clashes that had begun to erupt daily.
Earlier this week, Bahrain imposed a curfew on large swathes of the capital Manama from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., later reducing those hours in some areas.
The curfew now runs from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. from Seef Mall, through the Pearl roundabout and the financial district to the diplomatic area.
"The education ministry calls on all the employees of the ministry, schools, nurseries and higher education institutes, both public and private, ... to return to work starting from Sunday March 20," it said in a statement on Bahrain News Agency.
It said students would be given a date soon to return to schools and universities.
(Reporting by Lin Noueihed, Editing by David Cowell)