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Friday, February 20, 2009

Iran says it respects sovereignty of Bahrain

TEHRAN: Iran yesterday moved to defuse a row with Bahrain, saying it respects the sovereignty of the neighboring Gulf kingdom, which has halted talks on a natural gas imports deal with Tehran.

“Our position on Bahrain is clear. We have repeatedly said that we respect the sovereignty and independence of all neighboring countries and the region, especially Bahrain,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told Arabic language state television Al-Alam.

Bahrain has strongly protested recent comments of Ali Akber Nateq Noori, a prominent conservative leader and member of Iran’s expediency council — the top arbitration body — that the Gulf kingdom used to be Iran’s 14th governorate and had a representative in its Parliament.

“We do not have eyes on any country. This is a storm created by the media. Nateq Noori did not refer to Bahrain,” Ghashghavi said in his statement to Al-Alam. “In his speech in Mashhad he talked about the achievement of the Islamic revolution and compared them to the era of the hated monarchy. He did not talk at all of current global, regional and political issues.”

On Feb. 11, a day after Nateq Noori’s speech, Iran’s Khorasan newspaper quoted him as saying in his address that “under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, this useless king, one of our provinces which has now become a country named Bahrain was taken away from us.

“At that time Bahrain was our 14th province and had a representative in Parliament.”

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said the Iranian remark was an “infringement of sovereignty” and a “distortion of historical fact.” He spoke to reporters in Manama following meetings yesterday with visiting foreign ministers of Turkey and Russia.

“We will never accept distortion of historical facts about the history of the Kingdom of Bahrain,” Sheikh Khalid said. “We are hurt by ... Iranian statements,” he added. “These remarks must be silenced.”

The minister confirmed yesterday that negotiations over a gas import deal following the signing of an agreement during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in 2007 have stopped.

Russia and Turkey came out in support of Bahrain. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan both expressed their countries’ support for Manama in separate press conferences with Sheikh Khalid.

“It’s important to accept the international legitimacy and sovereignty of all countries and refrain from questioning and harming them,” Lavrov said when asked about his country’s stance on Iran’s recent claims.

An hour earlier, Babacan said Turkey fully supports Bahrain and would not accept any questioning of its sovereignty. “The sovereignty of Bahrain and its safety is not something to be questioned. It’s sovereignty must be respected,” he said.

Source : Arab News

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