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Omani army ends pro-reform sit-in

Security forces say arrested “wanted people”

The Omani army stormed on Tuesday the Earth roundabout in Sohar removing a small group of pro-reform protesters and ending a month-old sit-in, witnesses said.

Army troops attacked the central area of the northern industrial town at dawn, witnesses said, adding that less than 20 demonstrators were on the roundabout.

ONA state news agency said security forces arrested some "wanted people in Sohar" for "blocking roads and attacking security men".

The spot had become central for Omani anti-corruption protests after one demonstrator was killed by security forces at a nearby police station at the end of February.

Around 300 demonstrators have since been gathering in the evenings at Earth roundabout, demanding jobs, better pay and an end to alleged corruption.

Sultan Qaboos took several outreaching measures aimed at calming protests that spread to the capital, including reshuffling the cabinet and giving orders to vest the toothless parliament with legislative and regulatory powers.

Protests broke out in the placid Gulf state as a wave of pro-democracy uprisings hit many Arab states and forced the ouster of the veteran presidents of Tunisia and Egypt.

But demonstrators in Oman insisted all the way that their protest was aimed at "corrupt" officials, not at Qaboos himself, who has ruled the sultanate for 40 years.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled Oman for 40 years, ordered a pay rise for civil servants and government pensioners, in a move to calm protesters demanding better wages.

Private sector workers make up around 19 per cent of workers in Oman. They say they are excluded from benefits the sultan has been using to coax Omanis off the streets, as workers at public and private companies continue to stage sit-ins and strikes over wages, including at two oil refineries last Sunday.

Wealthy Gulf Arab oil producers launched a $20 billion aid package this month for their less prosperous neighbours Oman and Bahrain — a job-generating measure that should enable the two countries to upgrade their housing and infrastructure.

At present, only the sultan and his cabinet can make laws. No further information has been given as to when powers would be transferred.