07/12/2007, 00.00
BAHRAIN – IRAN
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GCC slams Tehran’s claims to Bahrain

A newspaper managed by one of Khamenei’s cronies says Bahrain is an Iranian “province.” Gulf Co-operation Council responds immediately as local press is outraged by Iranian territorial claims.

Manama (AsiaNews/agencies) – “HANDS OFF BAHRAIN!” read the main front page title in today’s Gulf Daily News, quoting from the harsh response made by Abdulrahman al-Attiya, secretary general of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), to Iranian claims that the small but oil-rich archipelago-nation of Bahrain was a province of Iran and ought to be reunited with the Islamic Republic. Other newspapers of the region react in a similar way. Bahrain “was never and will never be part of Iran," the Al-Waqt daily said.

The whole controversy began when Iranian newspaper Kayhan published an article about a “public demand in Bahrain” for “reunification of this province with its motherland, Islamic Iran.” The article was signed by Hossein Shariatmadari, Kayhan’s managing director, who was appointed to the post by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“It goes without saying that such an indisputable right for Iran and the people of this province should not and cannot be overlooked,” Shariatmadari wrote, as he claimed that Bahrain was separated from Iran “through an illicit conformity between the former Shah and the governments of Britain and the US.”

Such claims are murky at best since Iran fully occupied the islands only between 1735 and 1784 when the British took over. After a decade of internal rule, the archipelago gained independence in 1971.

“These hostile claims were false and were aimed at fuelling sectarianism. They do not have any credibility,but are intended to create chaos,” the GCC secretary general said. The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Bahrain’s Shura Council also slammed Shariatmadari’s claims, calling on Iran to respect the principles of good neighbourhood and friendly ties bonding countries and their peoples. It also urged Iran to clarify its stance vis-à-vis the newspaper statement with respect to international conventions and resolutions.

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