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Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Will There Be a "National Dialogue"?

1651 GMT: Bahrain. Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the opposition society Al Wefaq, has said he is ready for discussions on a political settlement to end almost two years of conflict, "We welcome it, we are ready for it. We believe that dialogue and negotiations are necessary."

However, Salman called for Crown Prince Salman to attend to show the Government's had to show its willingness to offer "concrete solutions": "We want someone who can speak for the royal family."

1437 GMT: Egypt. Back from an extended academic break to find an answer to our opening question about a "national dialogue":

Feuding politicians finally met on Thursday, summoned by the country's most influential Islamic scholar who made them call an end to violence after a week of the deadliest protests since President Mohamed Morsi took office.

The meeting, called by the head of the thousand-year-old al-Azhar university and mosque, was attended both by top officials of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and secularist foes who had previously rebuffed the Islamist president's calls for talks.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb told the politicians that a national dialogue, "in which all elements of Egyptian society participate, without any exclusion, is the only tool to resolve any problems or differences".

"Political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and the welfare of everyone and the fate of our nation depends on respect for the rule of law," the sheikh said.

Leaders of all the main political parties signed a document at the meeting renouncing violence, attendee Ahmed Maher said in a Twitter message.

Mohsmed ElBaradei, a leader of the opposition National Salvation Front, said, "We come out of this meeting with a type of optimism. Each of us will do what we can, with goodwill, to build trust once again among the factions of the Egyptian nation."

0749 GMT: Mali. After the capture of the last town held by insurgents in the north, a Foreign Ministry spokesman has called for peace talks to be held between Mali's government and "legitimate representatives" from "non-terrorist armed groups": "Only a north-south dialogue will prepare the ground for the Malian state to return to the north of the country,."

On Wednesday, French forces seized Kidal after an airdrop early in the morning. A three-week offensive by French and Malian Government troops has swept through the north, with Islamist insurgents retreating into the desert.

On Tuesday, Mali's Parliament adopted a political roadmap that included a commitment to elections by 31 July 31 and the start of negotiations. However, Dioncounda Traore, Mali's interim President, said today that the Government will only negotiate with secular groups.

0745 GMT: Egypt. An appeals court has rejected blogger Alber Saber’s appeal against his three-year prison sentence for contempt of religion.

Saber was convicted on 12 December, after he allegedly posted clips from US-produced film “Innocence of Muslims” denigrating the Prophet Muhammad. His home was raided in September after he was accused of ripping up the Qur'an and publishing anti-Islamic content on-line. Those charges were later dropped, but the investigation of them led to the contempt-of-religion case.

0655 GMT: Egypt. Having rejected President Morsi's weekend call for "national dialogue", opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei responded on Wednesday...with a demand for a dialogue.

Earlier this week the opposed National Salvation Front answered Morsi's television speech with a demand for significant reforms before any discussion took place. It insisted on a national unity government and a commission to amend the new Constitution.

However, after the head of the miltary warned of the "collapse" of the State if the current crisis escalated, ElBaradei used Twitter call for "urgent steps to stop the violence and start a serious dialogue". He suggested an immediate meeting between Morsi, the Ministers of Defense and Interior, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, the National Salvation Front, and parties of the ultraconservative Salafi movement.

Meanwhile, two men were killed near Cairo's Tahrir Square when they were hit by birdshot fired by security forces. Their deaths brought the total to 54 since Friday.

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