Thousands of people have gathered on the streets of Manama, Bahrain, to protest against the government, a day after reports of violent sectarian clashes between the rival Sunni and Shia communities.

The demonstrators have also converged outside the state television station outside Manama, chanting slogans against the Sunni regime that has ruled the Persian Gulf nation for two centuries.

Shias, who form a significant majority of Bahrain’s population, have long complained of discrimination by the ruling Sunni elite, and are now demanding greater participation in government.

A leading Bahraini Shia opposition figure has called for peace between the Sunni and Shia factions.

I will consider any attack against anyone in this country as an attack against me, Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the Islamic National Accord Association, the main Shia political group, told thousands of demonstrators marching on the King Faisal Corniche in Manama.

He added that Shias should guarantee the safety of every Sunni family, and Sunnis should do likewise in return.

Meanwhile, another leading Shia figure, Abdul Jalil Khalil, said he is receptive to the ruling family's proposal of entering into talks to discuss the Shia’s grievances.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa has offered the dialogue.

We will talk to the crown prince, but we are not going to sit together for a casual chat, but for a meaningful dialogue only, said Khalil, of the Al Wefaq bloc.

Opposition groups reportedly want to abolish the 2002 constitution and the election of a constitutional assembly for drafting a new basic law.”

They also want the Khalifa dynasty to replace to current regime and cabinet as a penalty for the killing of protesters by government troops.

A government source said that despite substantial differences between the various groups and parties, a political consensus must be arrived at.