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Bahrainis protest at palace while cabinet meets

By the CNN Wire Staff
Bahraini Shiite protesters march in an anti-regime demonstration in Manama on Friday.
Bahraini Shiite protesters march in an anti-regime demonstration in Manama on Friday.
  • NEW: The crown prince says a consensus has emerged around most demands
  • It's the first time a protest has been allowed at the site
  • Demonstrators call for the downfall of the prime minister
  • Seven have died in protests in the last few weeks

(CNN) -- A large number of people protested outside the palace where Bahrain's cabinet was meeting Sunday, the first time a protest had been allowed at the site.

Protesters chanted slogans calling for the downfall of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, many waving one-dinar bills to criticize his purchase of the Bahrain Financial Harbour development for that amount in 2005.

The protest, which lasted about 2 1/2 hours, was peaceful and broke up before the cabinet meeting ended.

There was no immediate comment from the government or the Bahrain Economic Development agency.

Anti-government demonstrators continue to camp out in Bahrain's Pearl Roundabout, where seven people died when security tried to clear the area.

More than 500 people have been injured in Bahrain since the protest began in mid-February as part of a wave of popular unrest crashing through the Arab world, according to human rights activists.

A few dozen of those injured remain in the hospital. Four of them are in serious condition, said Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy.

But some are now calling for the removal of the royal family, which has led the Persian Gulf state since the 18th century.

Sunday, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa addressed the nation on television, saying that a consensus has emerged around 70% to 80% of the people's demands, according to a release from the government.

"Everybody wants better services. Everybody wants dignity. Everybody wants to be heard," he said, the statement read. "Instead of having winners and losers, let's have victory for all, security and stability for all, and respect for all."

The anti-government rallies in Bahrain have occurred alongside similar protests in other regional states, but they have also unfolded amid major gestures by the kingdom.

Bahrain's king reshuffled his cabinet last month as protesters continued to call for reforms. He has also touted a "national dialogue" and urged Bahrainis "to engage in this new process" and "move away from polarization."

"Today we are drawing the future of a country," the crown prince said. "I can assure you that Bahrain will not go back to its former state because the one thing that is certain in life is change."

Young members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority have staged protests in recent years to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country's Sunni rulers have done little to address.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said authorities launched a clampdown on dissent in 2010. It accused the government of torturing some human rights activists.

CNN's Jenifer Fenton contributed to this report

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