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Obama praises Bahraini reshuffle

Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed

President Barack Obama extended US support Sunday for a "national dialogue" in Bahrain. He welcomed King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa’s cabinet reshuffle and his decision to allow the return to the country of an exiled opposition leader after 13 days of protests.

"The United States supports the national dialogue initiative led by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, and encourages a process that is meaningful, inclusive, non-sectarian, and responsive to the people of Bahrain," he said.

The US Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

Hassan Mashaima, the leader of a banned opposition party, returned home from self-imposed exile in Britain on Saturday.

On Sunday, thousands of Bahrainis marched in the capital Manama calling for the fall of the dynasty, as 18 MPs from Al-Wefaq opposition bloc resigned to protest the deaths of anti-regime demonstrators, seven of whom have been killed by security forces since the protests began on 14 February.

Admiral Mike Mullen, US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused Iran of fomenting instability when he visited Bahrain on Friday. But he said Tehran was not behind the popular protests in several regional countries.