Saudi Arabia banned all public demonstrations in the country and vowed to use all forces to stop the Shiite-led protesters from breaking public order, reports have said.

The tough pre-emptive measure came even as anti-government protests gathered momentum in parts of the country where the minority Shiites have strength.

Anti-government protests were held in Hofuf and Qatif, cities in the Kingdom's east, according to Doha-based Al Jazeera. The report said a restive Shia population has been staging protests in areas where they are strong.

The Saudi situation is much similar to that in Bahrain, were Shiites rose in rebellion against the Sunni-led monarchy, alleging discrimination and repression. The difference in Saudi Arabia is that, unlike in Bahrain Sunnis are a big majority.

The Saudi Shias say that they have been denied equal economic and employment opportunities and that they are suppressed and held in detentions without trial.

The absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia does not tolerate any form of protest and there is hardly any room for manoeuvre in its extremely closed political system.

However, recent revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as the ongoing chaos in Libya have rattled the nerves of the Al Saud dynasty. The Saudi monarch last week offered benefits worth $37 billion last week in an effort to shore up support in view of the rebellions sweeping through the Arab world.