Sat, May 19, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Iran summons Bahrain envoy over row

UNION OR ANNEXATION?Bahrain said it would decide itself whether to form a union with Saudi Arabia, while Tehran said that such a union was against the will of the Shiite majority

AFP, Tehran

Iran summoned Bahrain’s ambassador in Tehran after the Bahraini foreign minister told the Islamic republic to stop interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs, state media reported yesterday.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al Khalifa on Thursday warned Iran to stop meddling over a proposed union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Tehran “rejects comments made by the Bahrain foreign minister and hopes that the Bahraini government finds a suitable solution toward the developments there,” reports quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

“The only way out of the existing problems is [to] respond to the legitimate demands of the Bahraini people,” the official added.

The planned union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the first part of a broader union of the Gulf’s six Arab monarchies, has triggered a war of words between Shiite-dominated Iran and the Sunni rulers of Shiite-majority Bahrain.

The summoning of Bahrain’s envoy to Tehran came ahead of Iranian government-organized protests yesterday against what it has called “the US plan to annex Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.”

On Thursday, Sheikh Khaled said the union is a “demand by the people” of the Gulf Cooperation Council, while adding that Bahrain “rejects Iranian interference in the affairs of the kingdom.”

The minister said that “every once in a while, we hear Iranian claims that Bahrain is the 14th governorate” of the Islamic republic and that Bahrainis want to “return to the motherland.”

Saudi Arabia had also previously told Iran to keep out of its relations with Bahrain, where dozens of people, mostly Shiites, have been killed in violence since February last year.

Iran hit back on Thursday, with Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast saying “the proposed union or annexation of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia” would lead to the “disappearance” of the Gulf archipelago.

Tensions have escalated between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors since a Saudi-led Gulf force arrived in Bahrain in March last year to boost the kingdom’s security forces, which then crushed a month-old Shiite-led uprising against the regime.

Iran has repeatedly voiced support for the protests in Bahrain and strongly condemned the deployment of Saudi-led forces.

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