Arab Gulf Leaders Meet For Talks On Further Union

Leaders of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) are meeting in Saudi Arabia to discuss plans for a regional political, economic and security union.

Arab Gulf leaders meet for talks on further union

Leaders of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) are meeting in Saudi Arabia to discuss plans for a regional political, economic and security union.

The exact nature of this union is unclear. Bahrain's minister of state for information, Samira Rajab, said it could follow European Union model.

The plan is the brainchild of the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, who is chairing the meeting in Riyadh.

The six-nation bloc's foreign ministers met on Sunday to lay the groundwork.

The first phase of the proposal would be a union between Bahrain and GCC heavyweight Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain has seen political protests and unrest since February 2011, led largely by the majority Shia population demanding greater democracy and an end to what they say is discrimination by the Sunni Muslim royal family.

Amnesty International says 60 people have been killed since the protests began, including members of the security services.

Hundreds of people have been arrested, scores tortured in jail and convicted in front of military tribunals, and more than 4,000 people were summarily sacked from their jobs.

The initial protests focused on Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama.

These were ended when troops from Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries entered Bahrain in March 2011.

Saudi Arabia has seen a number of smaller protests by Shia demonstrators in its Eastern Province.

The Saudi-Bahrain union is seen as a move aimed at countering Shia-majority, and regional rival, Iran.

Bahrain's King Hamad has tried to address some of the protesters' demands by announcing constitutional reforms intended to lead to greater accountability.

But the opposition, as well as human rights groups, say the promises are empty and that a severe crackdown on dissent is continuing.