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    Saudi group calls for street protests
    By Roula Khalaf in London
    November 29 2004
    A London-based Saudi opposition group is calling on supporters to defy the ban against demonstrations and take to the streets in two of the kingdom's two largest cities.
    According to Saudi analysts who monitor the television broadcasts of Islah, the Islamist dissident group, the call for demonstrations appears to be mobilising support in the kingdom and could pose a challenge to the authorities.
    Demonstrations called for by Islah last year were blocked by security forces. This time the organisation has warned that the demonstrations will take place within the next two weeks, but is hoping to delay announcement of the exact date to give police as little time as possible to organise its response.
    In the past month Islah, also known as the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (Mira), has defied the authorities by making public on television a long list of names of supporters. It says as many as 50,000 Saudis have been willing publicly to state their backing.
    People close to the Saudi government insist that the support for the group is exaggerated but its real strength will be tested by the response to the call for protests.
    In an absolute monarchy where overt opposition is not tolerated, the London-based group has capitalised on political and economic frustrations.
    It may have also benefited from the crackdown at home against more moderate Islamist opponents of the regime who had instigated petitions demanding political and constitutional reforms.
    The Saudi government has accused Islah of incitement to violence and has pressed the British government to curb the activities of its leader, Saad al-Faquih.
    The pressure mounted earlier this year when Saudi officials alleged that a Saudi dissident might have been involved in a presumed Libyan plot to kill Crown Prince Abdullah.

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