Factbox: Protests in Middle East and North Africa

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 9:31 AM

(Reuters) - Here are details of some of the protests against authoritarian leaders which have deposed the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt and shaken the Arab world:

* LIBYA: -- Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi entered the main square of Zawiyah Wednesday, rebel and resident sources said. Zawiyah had been seen as a rebel stronghold in the uprising which erupted against Gaddafi last month.

-- Rebels captured Ras Lanuf last week and began pushing down the strategic coastal road toward Sirte, Gaddafi's home town. But they were beaten back.

-- Libya has tipped into a political vacuum since the uprising against Gaddafi erupted on February 17.

* YEMEN: -- President Ali Abdullah Saleh is resisting the popular clamor for his removal that has convulsed Yemen since protesters toppled Egypt's Hosni Mubarak four weeks ago, but the odds are stacking up against him.

-- However opposition supporters vowed Wednesday not to abandon their protests in the face of violence after one man was killed Tuesday after policemen and security agents fired on a group setting up tents in front of Sanaa University -- an area that has become the focal point of the civil unrest. At least 65 people were wounded demonstrating for an end to Saleh's 32-year-old rule. [nLDE7281YI]

-- Weeks of clashes across the country between government loyalists and protesters has killed up to 30 people.

-- Saleh has pledged to step down in 2013 and reform parliamentary election laws.

* BAHRAIN: -- Bahrain's crown prince warned all sides on March 7 against escalating a standoff with disgruntled majority Shi'ites seeking an elected government in the Gulf Arab kingdom, asking for patience ahead of a national dialogue, which has not yet started.

-- Tensions turned to clashes between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims in Bahrain on March 3, the first direct confrontation between the two communities since last month's large scale protests.

-- Seven people died last month in a security response to protests by Shi'ites who have long complained of discrimination in Bahrain, a close U.S. and Saudi ally.

* IRAQ: -- Hundreds of Iraqis protested against their government on March 7 in a "Day of Regret" on the anniversary of an election that resulted in a second term for Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

-- Iraq has been swept by protests in recent weeks but unlike uprisings across the Arab world the Iraqi demonstrators have focused on complaints about basic services and corruption rather than trying to oust their elected government.

-- Eight years after the U.S.-led invasion which ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, development remains slow and Iraqis complain of shortages of food, water, power and jobs.

SAUDI ARABIA: -- Shi'ite protesters have taken to the streets in small numbers in eastern Saudi Arabia this month, with further rallies called for March 11.

-- Dialogue, not protest, is the best way to bring about change in Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Wednesday. Saudi Arabia's huge oil wealth has provided a high standard of living compared to many neighbors, and it was thought to be immune from spreading unrest, but the rumblings of discontent from the Shi'ite minority have alarmed Riyadh.

* OMAN: -- Oman carried out its third government reshuffle in a month on March 7, in the latest of a string of concessions aimed at appeasing protesters demanding jobs and political reforms in the Gulf Arab sultanate.

-- Sultan Qaboos bin Said had earlier promised 50,000 new jobs and other benefits to ward off unrest and sacked some long-serving ministers.

-- Dozens of protesters staging a sit-in for a ninth day in front of the Shoura Council, a quasi-parliamentary advisory body, cheered the news of the reshuffle.

* KUWAIT: -- Several hundred Kuwaitis demonstrated on Tuesday for a change of prime minister and demanded more political freedoms. Protesters gathered in a car park they named "The Square of Change" and called for Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, a member of the ruling family, to leave.

* EGYPT: -- President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11 following 18 days of mass protests centered around Cairo's Tahrir Square. Demonstrators have continued to stage protests to ensure the new military rulers carry out promises of reform.

-- Egypt's new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, visited Tahrir Square on March 4, where he told thousands of protesters that he will work to meet their demands, and saluted "martyrs" of the revolution. Sharaf was appointed the day before to replace Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force officer named to the premiership by Mubarak before he stepped down.

-- Egypt will hold a referendum on reforms to its constitution on March 19, the government said.

TUNISIA: -- A Tunisian court ruled Wednesday that the party of former President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali be dissolved, triggering street celebrations as one of the last vestiges of the ousted leader's era was dismantled.

-- Ben Ali was toppled by mass protests on January 14 after 23 years of autocratic rule and fled to Saudi Arabia.

-- An election has been called on July 24 to choose a national assembly that will rewrite the constitution. Ben Ali's feared secret police services, a domestic spy agency notorious for human rights abuses, have been dismantled.

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;)