Bahrain’s crown prince says dialogue is the only solution leading to stability

More dead or wounded in Yemen as Saleh sticks to his dialogue offer

Libya sliding into civil war

Gaddafi’s forces fail to repulse rebels’ marches towards Sirte, Tripoli

Libyan national council forms crisis panel, asks for international recognition

Demonstrations in Lebanon call for end to sectarian system

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman said on Sunday that dialogue is the only way forward for the tiny Gulf kingdom, which has been gripped by protests calling for political change since February 14.

"We have to give ourself a chance for dialogue in a civilized way," he said in an interview with Bahrain TV. "There is no way out of this crisis except dialogue.

"Dialogue is the solution, and almost 80 percent of the demands we received are agreed by everybody," said Prince Salman, who has been tasked by his father King Hamad with opening talks with the opposition.

"Everybody is asking for better services, dignity, and accountability... If these are the demands, let us sit at the table of dialogue and go forward to a better situation from that which we are in now."

Apparently not included in that 80 percent were preconditions for dialogue to begin that were laid out on Thursday by six Bahraini opposition groups, including the influential Shiite Islamic National Accord Association (INAA).

"It is not permissible for one party to set the ceiling of the dialogue before it begins," Prince Salman said when asked about the opposition's conditions for talks to begin.

"But we do not mind discussing all these issues in depth within the dialogue," he said.

The opposition's conditions include the "abolition of the 2002 constitution" and "the election of a constitutional assembly for drafting a new basic law" for the tiny Gulf kingdom.

The people should also have the right to "elect a parliament with full legislative powers" and "to elect their government."

The last condition is to "guarantee the outcomes of the dialogue are applied and respected."

Earlier on Sunday, thousands of demonstrators massed at Al-Qudaibiya palace, where the kingdom's cabinet meets and its prime minister has an office, chanting anti-government slogans as police with riot shields looked on from inside the compound.

Protesters continue to keep vigil in hundreds of tents in Pearl Square, which has become the epicenter of anti-government protests that on Sunday entered their 21st day, and showed no signs of flagging.

In Sanaa, Yemen's opposition presented President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Wednesday with a road map for a smooth transition of power this year, offering him a graceful exit as street pressure grew for him to step down now.

Illustrating the potential for rifts among his diverse opponents, young activists who have taken the lead in ever-swelling street protests demanded immediate change in the Arabian Peninsula state.

"Get out! Get out! Get out!" protesters chanted near Sanaa University, where once-small student-led protests have grown into daily rallies of 10,000 or more. "No negotiation and no dialogue until the regime leaves."

Elsewhere, 30 people were wounded as Saleh loyalists clashed with several thousand protesters in the Red Sea town of Hudeidah, southeast of the capital Sanaa.

The opposition, which just two days ago had said it would not retreat from demands that Saleh leave power immediately, agreed with religious and tribal leaders to ask him to take steps toward a transition.

These included changing the constitution and rewriting election laws to ensure fair representation in parliament, open up voter registration and make politics more democratic overall.

The opposition also wants the removal of Saleh's relatives from leadership positions in the army and security forces, and a guaranteed right to peaceful protest.

Yemen, already plagued by regional separatism and al Qaeda insurgents, has become one of the Arab nations most shaken by popular unrest sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East.

"What was presented (to a representative of Saleh) was a road map for departure within a time frame of a month or two, or six months," said Mohammed al-Sabry, a spokesman for Yemen's main opposition coalition which includes Islamists and leftists.

"As for the people's demand for the departure of the regime, there is no going back on that," he added.

The rotating opposition chairman, Mohamed al-Mutawakil, said the coalition was also asking for trials of those responsible for a harsh crackdown on protests in which 24 people were killed in two weeks, most in the south.

Disturbances continued there on Wednesday as police and armed squatters clashed. Two people were killed.

"We have to start the transfer of power from the person to civil society organizations, and this is a needed step to ensure a safe and peaceful exit to the situation Yemen is living in," he said, saying a transition should be completed this year.

There was no immediate response from the government.

Saleh, a key ally of Washington's against al Qaeda's resurgent Yemen-based arm, has vowed to step aside when his term ends in 2013 and avoid transferring power to his son.

He has had trouble persuading opponents this would be anything more than a maneuver to ward off a spillover of unrest already raging in Libya, Bahrain and Oman, galvanized by successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Protesters on the streets -- 10,000 each in Sanaa and the industrial cities of Taiz and Ibb -- showed little readiness to allow a more measured transition, complicating efforts to give Saleh a respectable way out.

Political analysts say it remains unclear who really has the upper hand in Yemen, where tribal allegiances are strong.

Young people have given street protests their momentum but the opposition is able to draw bigger crowds.

The cash-strapped government appointed a judge on Wednesday to look into corruption issues and a meeting was planned for Saturday to discuss an initiative to provide 60,000 jobs to young college graduates. Unemployment and graft have been among protesters' main complaints.

In the south, once an independent state, a secessionist undercurrent pervades protests despite efforts to find a united national opposition voice.

With the protests swelling gradually, Saleh has seen a series of allies defect, including a leading hard-line Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, who only two weeks ago backed the president staying on until 2013.

"We'll be here until the regime departs and we have no other demand," said Ali Naji, a protester in Sanaa.

Samia al-Aghbari, a student leader in Sanaa, said: "The agreement bypasses the youth revolution and is not acceptable. Our demand is one: The departure of the regime."

Where once the protests were the domain of students and activists, they now attract a broader segment of society into the streets that last week began to include children, some wearing headbands emblazoned with the word: "Leave."

Meanwhile, one of Muammar Gaddafi's sons, Saadi, said on Monday his father had not yet thrown his army into full battle against rebels, saving it to shield Libya against foreign attack, and civil war could erupt if he did.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya television, Saadi Gaddafi also said the Libyan leader could not resign as demanded by the rebels because that could also lead to civil war.

Saadi blamed some of the unrest on one of his brothers, Saif al-Islam, who he said had sought economic reforms but failed to address the problems of ordinary Libyans.

"The tribes are all armed, there are forces from the Libyan army and the eastern region is armed. The situation is not like Tunisia or Egypt," said Saadi, who was briefly a professional footballer in Italy before turning to business.

Protests in Tunisia and Egypt have toppled the presidents of both countries since the start of the year.

"The situation is very dangerous," he said. The leader must play a very, very big role in calming Libya and convincing people to sit together. "If something happened to the leader, who would be in control? A civil war would start."

He said the Libyan army had so far only intervened to protect "sensitive sites" and a wider war would result if his father ordered them into an all-out fight.

"The leader has given special instructions to the army not to intervene, save for the protection of sensitive sites, and to be ready to repel foreign intervention."

The military was just waiting for Gaddafi's orders, Saadi said. "So far it has not moved. When it does, a civil war may erupt," he said in the full broadcast of the interview, which Al-Arabiya had excerpted earlier in the day.

The news channel said that Saadi Gaddafi warned that Libya would turn into a new Somalia and that tribes would fight against each other.

He said Tripoli was holding a dialogue through the tribes to answer the demands of the people, without making clear which demands he was referring to.

"But there are armed groups that pursue the path of killing and violence, which I think leaves only the choice of confronting them," he added.

Saadi's criticism of his brother Saif al-Islam hinted at strains within the Gaddafi family as the unrest continued.

"The leader told them [Saif al-Islam and the ministers] on a daily basis that you are facilitating matters and the budget, but there are things they did not do."

Those shortcomings included failing to address issues like prices of basic commodities that concerned Libyans, Saadi said.

The reforming efforts of Saif al-Islam were stymied by opposition from inside the ruling elite and, some analysts had said, family members. Educated at a British university, Saif al-Islam has acted a spokesperson for his father during the unrest.

Saadi had a brief career in Italy's Serie A soccer league between 2003 and 2007, though he had little time on the field.

Saadi, who qualified as an engineer and also holds military rank, later turned to business. He told Reuters in an interview last year he was behind a project to set up a free trade zone on the Mediterranean coast west of Tripoli.

When violence engulfed Libya's eastern city of Benghazi in mid-February, Saadi spoke on local radio to say he had been appointed commandant of the city. Soon after, residents took control of Benghazi and forced out Gaddafi's forces.

The United States said on Monday it was considering whether to arm the Libyan opposition but said it would be premature to do so now, amid rising pressure on the White House over the crisis.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney said US officials were seeking to learn as much as they could about Libyan opposition groups, but that offering weapons to opponents of Gaddafi was only one option on the table.

However, State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley said it would currently be illegal for the United States to arm the opposition because of a UN Security Council banning all weapon shipments to Libya.

Carney told reporters: "On the issue of ... arming, providing weapons, it is one of the range of options that is being considered.

"We are pursuing a number of channels to have conversations and discussions with the opposition, groups and individuals, as we try to learn more about what they are pursuing, what they want.

"Speaking more generally, you have to be very cognizant however when you pursue these options of what it is you are trying to accomplish.

"It would be premature to send a bunch of weapons to a PO Box in eastern Libya, we need to not get ahead of ourselves," Carney said.

On Sunday, Republican Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell called for the option of arming insurgents to be considered in Libya, further raising domestic political pressure on Obama over the issue.

Veteran diplomatic troubleshooter Bill Richardson, a Democrat, also made a similar call.

But Crowley said he understood such a move would violate action taken at the United Nations on February 26.

"In the UN Security Council resolution passed on Libya, there is an arms embargo that affects Libya, which means it's a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya," Crowley said.

"It would be illegal for the United States to do that," he added.

However, he did not exclude a future Security Council resolution or some other action that would reverse the ban.

"As events go forward, I can't predict what is going to happen," he said.

As battles rage in Libya, civil unrest in other parts of the Middle East continues to worsen, with anti-government protests now spreading to Lebanon and violence increasing in Yemen.

Thousands of people in Beirut are demanding an end to the country's sectarian political system.

Protesters say the strict quota system which shares power between Lebanon's different religious groups is the cause of all the country's woes going back decades, including corruption, cronyism and the devastating civil war that lasted 15 years.

The power-sharing deal dates to 1943 and ensures Lebanon's president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim and the parliamentary speaker is a Shiite Muslim.

Other government jobs are also allocated according to religious affiliation.

The protesters are demanding the agreement be replaced with a fully secular system of government.

"The people want the fall of the regime," chanted the protesters of all ages as they marched to the headquarters of the state electricity authority.

Some of the banners at the rally read: "Confessionalism is the opium of the masses" and: "Revolt to topple the agents of confessionalism."

Inspired by the success of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, several groups demanding an end to Lebanon's confessional system sprouted on Facebook.

Sunday's protest came after a smaller one last week, when hundreds of demonstrators braved heavy rain and marched on the state courthouse.

Meanwhile opposition groups have vowed to intensify their protests against Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh after he refused calls to resign by the end of the year.

More than 60 people were injured in the latest unrest after pro-government forces led an attack against one demonstration, wielding knives, rocks and batons.

Amnesty International estimates at least 27 people have died since the protests began in Yemen in late January.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says Australians should not travel to Yemen and those already there should leave.

Britain and the United States are urging their citizens to leave Yemen as protests against the government descended into new violence.