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Friday, July 13, 2007

Iran stakes claim to Bahrain: Public seeks 'reunification . . .with its motherland'

ABU DHABI For the first time, Iran has claimed ownership over a Gulf Arab state, alarming the governments of Bahrain and its neighboring states.

A senior Iranian official asserted that Bahrain was part of Iran. The official termed Bahrain a "province" of Iran and said the Shi'ite community in the Gulf Arab state wants to be governed by Teheran.

"The public demand in Bahrain is the reunification of this province with its motherland, the Islamic Iran," Hussain Shariatmadari, an adviser to the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, said.

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The Teheran regime has not formally disavowed Shariatmadari's remarks. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was scheduled to have arrived in Manama on Friday, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It goes without saying that such an indisputable right for Iran and the people of this province should not and cannot be overlooked," Shariatmadari said.

Shariatmadari said Bahrain, which contains a Shi'ite majority, was separated from Iran "through an illicit conformity between the former Shah and the governments of Britain and United States." Shariatmadari is also managing editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, aligned with Khamenei and which published the claim on Bahrain.

On Friday, Shariatmadari told the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily that he did not obtain approval from Khamenei for the remarks on Bahrain. Shariatmadari said the remarks reflected his personal opinion.

The Iranian claim has alarmed the GCC. On July 11, GCC secretary-general Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah accused Teheran of seeking to undermine the sovereignty Gulf Arab states.

"These hostile claims were false and were aimed at fuelling sectarianism," Al Attiyah said. "They do not have any credibility, but are intended to create chaos."

Iran has been in territorial disputes with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE, supported by the GCC, has demanded that Iran return three islands it occupies in the Gulf.

Bahrain has complained of Iranian interference as well as financing Shi'ite agitators, who have organized riots in the Manama area nearly every night. Bahrain's Shura Council has urged Iran to respect international law.

"The independence of Bahrain, as well as its sovereignty and Arab [identity] are indisputable established facts," the Bahraini daily Akhbar Al Khaleej said.

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