15 March 2011 Last updated at 10:59 ET
The king of Bahrain has declared a three-month state of emergency, state TV reports, following weeks of pro-democracy protests in the kingdom.
It comes a day after troops from neighbouring Gulf states were sent to Bahrain to help deal with the unrest.
Protesters have blocked all roads leading to the capital’s financial centre, the scene of clashes on Sunday that left more than 200 people wounded.
Seven people have been killed since the start of the protests a month ago.
The nation’s armed forces chief has been authorised to take all measures to “protect the safety of the country and its citizens”, the emergency law announcement said.
About 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and a further 500 from the United Arab Emirates deployed in Manama, the capital, on Monday at the invitation of the government.
It is believed they intend to guard key facilities such as oil and gas installations and financial institutions.
The US state department has urged its citizens to avoid travelling to the country due to the ongoing unrest.
The protesters are demanding widespread political reforms in the kingdom. The country’s Shia opposition alliance wants a constitutional monarchy and other democratic reforms, but other groups want to bring down the Sunni dynasty.
Bahrain’s Shia Muslim majority has long complained of discrimination and dominance by the Sunni minority, including the ruling royal family.
Iran – the main Shia power in the Gulf – has denounced the use of troops from neighbouring Gulf states in Bahrain as “unacceptable”.
“The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.
In turn, Bahrain has recalled its ambassador to Iran in protest at Tehran’s “blatant interference” in its internal affairs, the state news agency reported.
Some in the Gulf region fear Iran, as a Shia-majority country, will try to inspire or organise the anti-government protesters; but many analysts believe the Shia minority in Bahrain is simply campaigning for better civil and political rights – and has no desire to be controlled or dominated by Iran, says the BBC’s Tehran correspondent James Reynolds, who is based in London.
In the financial district of Manama, demonstrators have built barricades from upturned rubbish bins, says the BBC’s Caroline Hawley in the capital, and many are wearing masks to protect themselves from tear gas.
A Bahraini man has been killed in clashes between protesters and police in the town of Sitra.
The Shia-led opposition has said the arrival of Gulf states troops – the first time that any Arab government has called for outside military help during the current wave of protests sweeping the region – is tantamount to a declaration of war.
The troops are part of a deployment by the Gulf Co-operation Council, a six-nation regional grouping which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Thousands of Bahraini protesters marched towards the Saudi embassy on Tuesday, waving banners and chanting slogans against the king, the AFP news agency reported.
They also called for unity between Sunnis and Shias in the Shia-majority country, which has been ruled by a Sunni dynasty for more than 200 years.
The G8 powers hope to see a democratic transition in the kingdom, said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who has been hosting a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Paris.
Earlier, the European Union urged “utmost restraint” in Bahrain and called on security forces to respect the “right to assemble peacefully”.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for “serious and constructive dialogue” to help resolve the crisis.
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (King of Bahrain) was born on January 28th, 1950 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamad_ibn_Isa_Al_Khalifa
January 28th, 1950
1 + 28 +1+9+5+0 = 44 = his life lesson = what he is here to learn = Staying current. Having his finger on the pulse of what is happening.
January 28th, 1950
1 + 28 +2+0+1+1 = 33 = his personal year (from January 28th, 2011 to January 27th, 2012) = Taking a stand. Holding firm. Not backing down.
33 year + 2 (February) = 35 = his personal month (from February 28th, 2011 to March 27th, 2011) = Hanging in there.
33 month + 15 (15th of the month on Tuesday March 15th, 2011) = 48 = his personal day = Convoy. Travel.