Iran moves to defuse tensions with Bahrain
Iran on Thursday moved to defuse a row with Bahrain, saying it respects the sovereignty of the kingdom which has threatened to halt a gas deal with Tehran. Bahrain on Wednesday said it has suspended negotiations with Iran over a major gas import deal following comments allegedly made by a senior Iranian official that touched on the sovereignty of the kingdom.
"Our position on Bahrain is clear. We have repeatedly said that we respect the sovereignty and independence of all neighbouring countries and the region, especially Bahrain," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told Arabic language state television Al-Alam.
According to AFP, Bahrain has strongly protested against recent comments of Ali Akber Nateq Nouri, a prominent conservative leader and member of Iran's expediency council, after he allegedly said the Gulf kingdom used to be Iran's 14th governorate and had a representative in its parliament. "We do not have eyes on any country. This is a storm created by the media. Nateq Nouri did not refer to Bahrain," Ghashghavi said in his statement to Al-Alam.
"In his speech in Mashad he talked about the achievement of the Islamic revolution and compared them to the era of the hated monarchy. He did not talk at all of current global, regional and political issues."
On February 11, a day after Nateq Nouri's speech, Iran's Khorasan newspaper quoted him as saying in his address that "under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, this useless king, one of our provinces which has now become a country named Bahrain was taken away from us.
"At that time Bahrain was our 14th province and had a representative at the parliament."
According to AFP, Bahrain's parliament condemned the remarks as "irresponsible" and urged Iran to "put an end to... all false statements that do not serve to boost relations between the countries, nor the interests of their people or regional stability and security."
Ghasghavi on Thursday warned the media from "reopening old border disputes as they do not benefit nations in the region or brotherhood and friendship."
On its part, Bahrain's Al-Ayam newspaper said the kingdom had recalled from Iran its team overseeing an October deal which would have provided Bahrain with one billion cubic feet of natural gas each year.