* One of few Arab states with Shi’ite majority
* Seen by allies as bullwark against Shi’ite Iran
MANAMA, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Bahrain’s king decided on Friday to give 1,000 dinars ($2,650) to each Bahraini family, the latest step that the Sunni rulers have taken to appease the majority Shi’ite public before protests planned next week.
Although most analysts do not see any immediate risk of revolt after popular uprisings toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, the small oil producer is considered the most vulnerable to unrest among Gulf Arab countries.
There have not been any street protests as revolt gripped Tunisia and Egypt, but the Bahraini government has made several concessions in recent weeks, such as higher social spending and offering to release some minors arrested during a security crackdown against some Shi’ite groups last August.
“To praise the tenth anniversary of the National Action Charter and in recognition of the people of Bahrain.... His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ... will provide the amount of one thousand dinars for each family of Bahrain after adopting necessary legal procedures,” a news report of the official Bahrain News Agency said.
Bahrain is one of the few Arab countries where the majority practices Shi’ite Islam. Tensions between the ruling family and the Shi’ite majority population are usually at a low boil, although there were some clashes ahead of election last October.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is seen as a bulwark by its allies Saudi Arabia and the United States against the regional influence of Shi’ite Iran.
Activists have called for protests on Feb. 14, the tenth anniversary of Bahrain’s constitution. It is not yet clear how widespread the protests will be, but analysts and diplomats say the Shi’ite opposition group Wefaq will be waiting to see how many concessions the government is prepared to make.
Although Bahrain has a parliamentary system, many Shi’ites feel elections have only served to co-opt them into the political system and did not improve their access to government jobs and services. ($1=.3769 Bahraini Dinar) (Reporting by Frederik Richter; Editing by Reed Stevenson and Peter Graff)
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