Thursday 19 February 2009 (24 Safar 1430)

      Kingdom condemns Iranian statements on Bahrain
      Arab News 


            Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa receives Jordanian King 
Abdallah at Manama airport on Wednesday. (Reuters)    
      JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia yesterday denounced statements by Iranian officials 
asserting Tehran's claim on Bahrain.

      "These irresponsible statements are only an attempt to defy historical 
and geographical facts," an unnamed Saudi official told the Saudi Press Agency.

      The response comes a week after Ali Akbar Nateq Noori, a former Iranian 
speaker of the house who is now an adviser to the country's supreme leader, 
reportedly claimed Bahrain as Iran's 14th province.

      This is not the first time such claims have been made by the Iranians. 
Daryush Qanbari, an Iranian MP, made similar comments before.

      Bahrain's Al-Ayam newspaper reported yesterday that Manama has recalled 
from Tehran its team overseeing a deal signed in October that would have 
provided Bahrain with one billion cubic feet (about 28 million cubic meters) of 
natural gas each year. "The Kingdom of Bahrain has stopped negotiations with 
Iran concerning importing natural gas," a senior Bahraini official was quoted 
as saying by AFP. "The decision was taken after the regretful remarks that 
touch on Bahrain's sovereignty and do not support the relations between the two 

      On Tuesday, the Bahraini Parliament condemned Nateq Noori's statement. 
"The Kingdom of Bahrain protests the comments made by Iranian officials that 
tamper with the sovereignty and independence of Bahrain," the state news agency 
BNA quoted Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa as saying last 

      Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited Manama last Monday and Jordan's 
King Abdallah was in the Bahraini capital yesterday. Analysts believe both 
visits were aimed at expressing solidarity with Bahrain.

      There has been no official reaction from the Iranian government on Nateq 
Noori's controversial comments.

      The Saudi spokesman said yesterday that Iranian statements would hamper 
ongoing efforts to establish good neighborly relations between Gulf Cooperation 
Council (GCC) states and Iran.

      "The GCC-Iran relations, based on mutual love and respect, are aimed at 
achieving peace and stability in the region and preventing division among 
Muslims," the Saudi Press Agency quoted the Saudi official as saying. "The 
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia while strongly rejecting the Iranian statements 
expresses its deep regret that such statements came from responsible officials 
close to the Iranian leadership."

      Ali Fakhro, a former Bahraini labor minister, said he did not believe the 
Iranian comments reflected the policies of the country's leadership. "They are 
absolutely meaningless," Fakhro told AFP. "I do not imagine that these comments 
are based on a political strategy. If they are true, it would be major 
political stupidity."

      Ties between the two Gulf neighbors have been strained in the past, most 
notably in July 2007 when an Iranian newspaper claimed Bahrain belonged to 
Iran. Iran's foreign minister then flew to Manama to defuse the crisis



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