March 14, 2011 / 8:49 PM / 8 years ago

Iran urges Bahrain to prevent "foreign interference"

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran urged Bahrain on Monday not to allow foreign interference in the country, a news agency reported, hours after Saudi troops entered the island kingdom to help put down weeks of protests.

About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government facilities, a Saudi official source said, a day after mainly Shi’ite protesters overran police and blocked roads in one of the most violent confrontations since Bahraini troops killed seven protesters last month.

The Director General for Persian Gulf and Middle East Affairs at Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said foreign interference in Bahrain would only complicate the situation and called on Manama not to allow it.

“The peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain are among the domestic issues of this country, and creating an atmosphere of fear and using other countries’ military forces to oppress these demands is not the solution,” he told the semi-official Fars news agency.

“It is expected that the demands of the Muslim people of Bahrain ... be seriously considered by the authorities and that they prevent the situation from becoming more complex by making right decisions and not allowing foreign interferences in Bahrain,” Amir Abdollahian added.

Most Gulf Arab ruling families are Sunni and non-Arab Iran is the main Shi’ite power in the region. Accusations already abound of Iranian backing for activists among the Shi’ite majority in Bahrain, a charge Tehran has denied.

Bahrain’s Shi’ites have complained of discrimination by the Sunni royal family and intervention in Bahrain by Gulf Arab troops is highly sensitive on the island.

Protesters took to the streets of Bahrain last month, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, in the worst unrest since the 1990s.

Thousands are still camped out at the Pearl roundabout, having returned since the army cleared out the area last month.

Iran has welcomed Arab uprisings in the region as an “Islamic awakening” against despotic rulers and has said they were influenced by its own 1979 Islamic revolution.

Analysts have said the Saudi troop movement into Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is a mark of concern in Saudi Arabia that concessions by the monarchy could inspire the conservative Sunni kingdom’s own Shi’ite minority.

Writing by Zahra Hosseinian, editing by Tim Pearce

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