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Bahrain Warns Iran Against Interference


Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa (right) giving a sword to his Saudi counterpart, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, in Manama on April 18.
Tension flared between Tehran and its Gulf Arab neighbors ahead of planned demonstrations in Iran against a proposed union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa accused Iran of stoking tensions with its Arab neighbors and warned the Islamic republic would suffer the "consequences of these interventions."

Iranian state television later reported that the country’s Foreign Ministry had summoned Bahrain's charge d'affaires to complain about Sheikh Khaled’s statement.

The comments follow official Iranian calls for demonstrations against the proposed union on May 18.

A summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) discussed the proposal on May 14 but did not reach any decision on the matter.

The proposed union was presented as a first step in a larger integration between all six GCC members.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said "the proposed union or annexation of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia" would lead to the "disappearance" of the tiny Gulf Island.

Mehmanparast added that such plans would deepen the crisis in Bahrain, where dozens of people have been killed in violence since February 2011.

"We advise Bahrain's leaders to change their ways and not aggravate the situation [in Bahrain] with such plans," Mehmanparast said.

On May 16, Iran's Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which organizes state-backed protests, urged citizens to protest against what it described as a U.S. plan to annex Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this week, Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying: "If Bahrain is supposed to be integrated into another country, it must be Iran and not Saudi Arabia."

Bahrain summoned Iran's charge d'affaires to protest against what it called a "gross violation of its sovereignty."

Saudi Arabia had earlier told Iran to keep out of its relations with Bahrain, where the proposed union sparked strong criticism from the opposition.

Bahrain has seen intermittent protests led by its majority Shi’ites for more than a year demanding that the ruling Sunni royal family improve human rights and make political reforms.

Dozens of people have been killed in the violence.

Tensions have escalated between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors since a Saudi-led GGC force intervened in Bahrain in March 2011 to boost the kingdom's security forces.

Shi’ite-dominated Iran has repeatedly voiced support for the protests.

Saudi Arabia has also told Iran to keep out of its relations with Bahrain.

Based on reports by AFP and AP
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