TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran called the arrival of Saudi troops in Bahrain unacceptable on Tuesday and urged the island kingdom to respond to pro-democracy demonstrators peacefully and without foreign intervention.
About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain on Monday to protect government facilities, a Saudi official source said, as part of an effort by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to help the government cope with protests.
“The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference.
The arrival of the Saudi forces came after mostly Shi‘ite demonstrators overwhelmed Bahraini police on Sunday and blocked the highway to the main financial district in the most violent confrontations since troops killed seven protesters last month.
Most Gulf Arab ruling families are Sunni and non-Arab Iran is the main Shi‘ite power in the region. Accusations abound of Iranian backing for activists among the Shi‘ite majority in Bahrain, a charge Tehran has denied.
Iran, which is facing down opposition protests at home, has welcomed uprisings across the Arab Middle East as an “Islamic awakening” against despotic rulers.
“People have some legitimate demands and they are expressing them peacefully. It should not be responded to violently ... and we expect their demands be fulfilled through correct means,” Mehmanparast said on the situation in Bahrain.
Bahrain’s Shi‘ites have complained of discrimination by the Sunni ruling family.
Reporting by Hossein Jaseb; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Janet Lawrence