Iran denies its drone violated Bahrain's airspace

DUBAI Thu May 23, 2013 12:10pm EDT

A demonstrator peeks from under an Iranian flag during a ceremony to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran's Azadi square, February 11, 2012. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

A demonstrator peeks from under an Iranian flag during a ceremony to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran's Azadi square, February 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Caren Firouz

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran denied on Thursday that one of its drones had violated the airspace of Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, Iranian media reported.

Bahrain's Information Minister Samira Rajab told Reuters on Thursday that an unmanned spy drone was found in the Gulf waters between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The incident could further inflame tensions between the two countries.

In a report carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency, an unnamed official at the Foreign Ministry denied an Iranian drone had violated the Gulf kingdom's airspace, without giving further details.

Instead, the official urged Bahraini rulers to pay attention to the demands of their people and not make false accusations, IRNA said.

Bahrain accuses Iran of fomenting protests by the kingdom's Shi'ite Muslim majority that erupted in 2011 demanding reforms and equality, a charge denied by Tehran. Bahrain's Sunni rulers have largely put down the protests, but tensions remain.

Rajab gave no details on the type or condition of the aircraft or how it got there, but said it was a further indication of continued Iranian meddling.

"The international community needs to put an end to the Iranian interference in our affairs," she said.

Tensions have been rising between Saudi-backed Bahrain and Shi'ite-rule Iran.

Tehran has condemned a raid by security forces last week on the home of top Bahraini cleric, Ayatollah Issa Qassim, and Bahrain responded by accusing Iran of interfering in its affairs.

Bahrain's chief of public security had made no mention of the raid on Qassim's home but said police had come under fire from a "locally made weapon" in the area, wounding two officers.

Saudi state media said on Tuesday that officials had detained 10 people accused of spying for Iran after arresting 18 people in the same case in March. Iran denied any link to the case.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Habboush and Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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