Bahrain king makes veiled charge against Iran
A resident spreads his arms in front of riot police and tanks moving into the Shiite Muslim village of Malkiya, Bahrain, southwest of Manama, on Sunday, March 20, 2011. (AP / Hasan Jamali)
Published Monday, March 21, 2011 12:24PM EDT
MANAMA, Bahrain - Bahrain's king blamed a foreign plot for his nation's weeks-long unrest, using veiled language Monday to accuse Iran of fomenting an uprising by the Shiite majority in the Sunni-ruled island kingdom.
The Bahrain opposition's main demand is for a constitutional monarchy that would keep the royal family in power but would let people elect a government. Inspired by mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled the two countries' presidents, it rejects accusations of influence by the Shiite powerhouse across the Persian Gulf.
"We don't want Iranians to come. We don't want a big problem in this small country," senior opposition leader Ali Salman said Sunday, adding that the solution to the country's crisis has to come from its people.
The king declared a three-month emergency rule and invited armies from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni-ruled Gulf states to help quell unrest in Bahrain, the home of U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa praised the Saudi-led force and said "Bahrain is bigger and stronger today than ever."
"I here announce the failure of the fomented subversive plot against security and stability," the king was quoted as saying by state-run Bahrain News Agency. The king spoke to the commander of the Saudi-led force and said its troops give Bahrain strength and confidence.
Iran has condemned the presence of the Gulf force in Bahrain and Shiites across the Middle East have been outraged by the deadly crackdown of protest, that has killed at least 13 people.
In Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the Saudi-led troop deployment in Bahrain, insisting the Shiite-led opposition protests against the island's Sunni rulers are not a sectarian dispute but an uprising against tyranny.
"What Shiite-Sunni dispute? It's the protest of a nation against oppression ... it's the uprising of a people who do not enjoy the right to vote," Khamenei said Monday in a speech broadcast on Iranian state TV.
He also shrugged off U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's warning Saturday that Iran stop meddling in Bahrain's affairs.
Khamenei said "it's impudence" for the U.S. not to call Saudi deployment in Bahrain an intervention but to accuse Tehran of meddling when it supports Bahraini Shiite rights.
Iran on Sunday expelled a Bahraini diplomat in a tit-for-tat measure after Bahrain sent an Iranian diplomat home.