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Iran's President Seeks To Ease Tension With Bahrain

President Ahmadinejad cited his country's "good brotherly relations" with Bahrain.
MANAMA (Reuters) -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has sent a message to Bahrain's King Hamad in an effort to smooth relations, state media have reported, after an Iranian official questioned the island nation's sovereignty.

The message was discussed during a meeting between King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsuli in Manama on February 23, the official news agency said.

Ahmadinejad said he would "not allow anyone who does not have good intentions for both countries to violate these good brotherly relations," it reported.

"I would like to confirm that the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the security of Bahrain and the security of all countries in the region as part and parcel of its own security and stability," Mahsuli said on February 24 during a security conference in Manama.

According to media reports, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said earlier this month that Iran had sovereignty over the kingdom.

Bahrain halted talks with Iran over natural-gas imports over the reported comments, and Bahrain's foreign minister summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest earlier in February. The Bahrain News Agency report made no mention of the gas talks.

Gulf Arab states this week called on Iran to condemn the remarks at a foreign ministers' meeting in Riyadh on February 22. Iran said the following day that the reports on the official's remarks had been misunderstood and misinterpreted.

Iran has denied having claims over Bahrain but the tensions have underscored the suspicions between Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states and non-Arab, Shi'ite Muslim Iran.

Gulf Arab states are concerned about Iran's rising influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories and its potential effect on their own Shi'ite communities.

The issue is particularly sensitive in Bahrain, which has a sizable Shi'ite population.