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Protests flare in Bahrain after king's speech

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December 16, 2012 09:32 AM EST | AP


MANAMA, Bahrain — Activists in Bahrain say police have fired tear gas at anti-government protesters who took to the streets after an annual address by the Gulf nation's king.

The sporadic clashes took place shortly after King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa called for unity Sunday in a speech for the kingdom's national day. They highlight the country's sharp divides after more than 22 months of near nonstop unrest between the Sunni monarchy and the country's majority Shiites, who seek a greater political voice.

Acting head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Yousef al-Muhafedha says hundreds of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas in a neighborhood near the capital Manama. Elsewhere, masked youths blocked roads with burning tires.

Protest groups are calling for large-scale marches later this week.