Protesters shot as violence spreads to Oman

Police shot dead two demonstrators as the wave of protests sweeping the Arab world engulfed the normally placid sultanate of Oman.

Police opened fire with rubber bullets as protesters tried to storm a police station. Five others were wounded.

The protests in Sohar, more than 200km northwest of Muscat, prompted Sultan Qaboos to introduce swift appeasing measures, including the provision of jobs for 50,000 citizens and unemployment benefits.

Protesters demanding jobs, pay rises and measures to curb corruption razed the Sohar Governor’s house and a police station.

In Tunisia, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi resigned as security forces clashed with protesters in Tunis demanding the removal of some ministers in his interim government, a day after three people were killed in the capital.

The 69-year-old was replaced by 84-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, a minister in the pre-Ben Ali government of Habib Bourguiba, the first president of independent Tunisia.

Despite the toppling of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, protests have persisted because the new government included Mr Ghannouchi, Mr Ben Ali’s prime minister, and others from the old regime.

“This resignation will serve Tunisia, and the revolution and the future of Tunisia,” Mr Ghannouchi told reporters.

Thousands of Bahrainis marched again in Manama calling for the fall of the Sunni dynasty, as 18 opposition MPs resigned over the killing of demonstrators.

Demonstrators continued a vigil in hundreds of tents in Pearl Square – the epicentre of anti-government protests that began on February 14 – where they have said they will stay until their demands are met.

On Saturday, King Hamad reshuffled his cabinet and Shi’ite opposition leader Hassan Mashaima returned home from exile.

Demonstrators also continued to clamour for change in Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed on Sunday to defend his three-decade regime “with every drop of blood”.

Police used force to disperse an anti-regime student demonstration in the city of Mukala, wounding five protesters.

In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned his cabinet to shape up within 100 days or face “changes” as protest organisers called for a fresh set of rallies and religious leaders demanded reforms.

Sixteen people were killed and more than 130 were wounded in a day of protest across at least 16 Iraqi cities on Friday.

In Jordan, Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit told MPs he was committed to “true and gradual” reforms, a day after the opposition threatened more pressure, accusing the government of not taking the process seriously.

In a statement posted on the internet, more than 100 Saudi academics, activists and businessmen called for major reforms including the establishment of a “constitutional monarchy” in the gulf kingdom.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s once feared interior minister, Habib al-Adly, was due to appear before a criminal court on March 5 accused of money laundering, judicial sources said. He was arrested on February 17 with tourism minister Zoheir Garranah and steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, a member of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

And Cairo-based Arab League chief Amr Mussa, a former foreign minister, said he planned to run for president.

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