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The Mideast

At Least 1 Dead as Anti-Government Protests Intensify in Oman

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Omani security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters demanding political reforms on Sunday, killing at least one person in the strategic Gulf country, police officials said.

The clashes mark a significant escalation in two days of protests in Oman, and show that the unrest roiling the Arab world has spread to a second Gulf nation. Bahrain has been engulfed by anti-government protests for weeks.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets Sunday in the town of Sohar, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of the capital of Muscat. Witnesses said police tried to disperse the demonstrators, firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

At least one person was killed in the clashes, a local police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

Omani ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said, wary of the unrest rippling across the region, replaced six Cabinet members on Saturday in a bid to defuse tensions in the country.

But Sunday's violence indicated that the government shake-up failed to quell the unrest in the country where the sultan retains tight control.

Oman shares authority with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of the world's oil tanker traffic passes through the waterway at the mouth of the Gulf.