Arab world protests at a glance

AP News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2011 3:49 PM
Arab world protests at a glance

A summary of Wednesday's developments in the Arab world, as instability and anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread in the region.

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LIBYA:

Militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi clamp down in Tripoli, but cracks in his regime spread elsewhere across the nation, as the protest-fueled rebellion controlling much of eastern Libya claim new gains closer to the capital.

The opposition says it has taken over Misrata, which would be the largest city in the western half of the country to fall into its hands. Protesters have claimed control all the way to the city of Ajdabiya, about 480 miles (800 kilometers) east of Tripoli, encroaching on the key oil fields around the Gulf of Sidra. That has left Gadhafi's power centered around Tripoli, in the far west and parts of the country's center.

Clashes have broken out over the past two days in the town of Sabratha, west of the capital, where the army and militiamen were trying to put down protesters who overwhelmed security headquarters and government buildings.

International outrage over the Gadhafi's hardline stance and the bloodshed continues to mount, with the U.S. and EU vowing to consider sanctions on Libya over the crackdown.

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BAHRAIN:

Thousands of anti-government protesters flood Manama's Pearl Square following the release of at least 100 political prisoners _ including 25 Shiite activists on trial since last year for allegedly plotting against the state. The move underlines how much the absolute rulers of the Gulf kingdom want to get reform talks with protest leaders under way. The release of the activists was one of the major demands of the emboldened political movement seeking constitutional reform.

Amid concerns that the island nation's uprising could spread to Saudi Arabia, where the monarchy permits few political freedoms, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa holds talks on the unrest with the Saudi king in Riyadh.

Bahrain holds particular importance to Washington as the host of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is the main U.S. military counterweight to Iranian efforts to expand its military influence into the Gulf.

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EGYPT:

Egyptian authorities impose a travel ban on former Prime Minister Atef Obeid and long-serving Culture Minister Farouq Hosni. The restrictions also cover the head of state TV and radio, as well as nine businessmen. Such measures are normally a prelude to a criminal investigation and possible trial.

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JORDAN:

Jordan's Cabinet approves laws making it easier to organize protests and will revive a government body that works to ensure basic commodities remain affordable to the poor.

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SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah nearly doubles a development fund that helps citizens buy homes, get married and start businesses, and sets up unemployment assistance for the first time. The move pumps 40 billion riyals ($10.7 billion) into the fund, in a step that appears aimed at shoring up popular support and fending off unrest that has spread to neighboring Bahrain.

The measures were ordered by the king even before he returned Wednesday to Saudi Arabia. The 86-year-old monarch was abroad for medical treatment in the United States and recuperation in Morocco.

Other measures include a 15 percent cost of living adjustment for government workers, a year of unemployment assistance for youth and nearly doubling to 15 individuals the size of families that are eligible for state aid.

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YEMEN:

Thousands stream into a square in the capital of Sanaa, trying to bolster anti-government protesters after club-wielding backers of President Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to drive them out. Amnesty International says two people are killed in Sanaa.

Protesters also rally in the Red Sea city of Hodeida, the southern port of Aden and the eastern port city of al-Mukalla.

The demonstrators are calling for the ouster of Saleh, who has ruled for 32 years. Saleh's promises not to run for re-election in 2013 or to set up his son as an heir have failed to quell the anger.

Also, seven lawmakers who belong to Saleh's ruling Congress Party resign from the group because of the situation in the country and say they will form their own independent bloc. The resignations raise to nine the number of legislators who left the party since protests began nearly a month ago.