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Crackdown failed to end protests

The harsh crackdown on anti-government protests in Bahrain has failed to silence people's demands for greater rights, a senior Shiite cleric in the Gulf kingdom said on Friday as thousands of opposition supporters rallied on the outskirts of the capital.

The latest demonstration was staged by people who say they were unfairly fired from their jobs simply for being members of the island nation's Shiite community, which led the months of protests. Thousands of Shiite professionals accused of having a role in the protests have been fired from their jobs.

Shiites make up a majority of Bahrain's people, but they have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the country's ruling Sunni dynasty and a lack of economic opportunities.

A police helicopter flew over the large demonstration, which was backed by Bahrain's biggest opposition party, Al Wefaq.

The crowd chanted slogans against Bahrain's 200-year-old Sunni monarchy. Some protesters demanded their jobs back and others urged opposition leaders not to compromise with the monarchy.

"Our revolution will continue," the protesters chanted. They warned the rulers: "If you don't want to listen then you have to leave."

Bahrain's senior Shiite cleric, Sheik Isa Qassim, said the "politics of fear" and the Sunni rulers' refusal to reform has strengthened the resolve of Shiites.

"Those who refuse to reform and continue to ignore the people's demands for rights should know that the masses will not submit to despots," the cleric said during friday's sermon in the opposition stronghold of Diraz, north-west of the capital, Manama.

More than 30 people have died since February when protests inspired by other Arab uprisings began in Bahrain. Hundreds of activists have been detained and brought to trial on anti-state charges in a special security court.

Bahrain lifted emergency rule in June. Since then, government opponents have clashed with police almost every night. Friday's protest dispersed peacefully, although groups of opposition supporters marched to Manama's Pearl Square, the heavily guarded former epicentre of Bahrain's uprising.

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