Iran minister plans fence-mending visit to Bahrain


He will carry a message from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for King Hamad, state-run media said, amid Bahraini anger at reported comments by a senior Iranian official saying that the island state was once the 14th province of Iran.

“Meeting and talking to the Bahraini king and delivering a message from our president tops the agenda for Mahsouli’s trip to Bahrain,” the state IRNA news agency said.

It said the minister would also take part in a security conference in Manama.

The ISNA student news agency said Mahsouli would meet senior Bahraini officials in a bid “to elevate cooperation between the two countries.”

Bahrain protested after Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, a prominent conservative member of Iran’s powerful Expediency Council, reportedly said the kingdom used to be Iran’s 14th province and had a representative in its Parliament.

Iran has since moved to defuse the spat, which has also threatened a major gas deal between the two nations, saying it respects Bahrain’s sovereignty.

Gulf states called on Iran on Sunday to condemn the remarks.

“That was a speech which caused misunderstanding and there were some misinterpretations,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a news conference, without elaborating.

Iran’s relations with Bahrain are “based on mutual respect,” Qashqavi said.

Manama has halted talks with Tehran over natural gas imports over the reported comments. Bahrain’s foreign minister also summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest the remarks earlier in February.

Qashqavi said the gas contract would be valuable for both Iran and Bahrain and both sides wanted to see it implemented.

He said Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki “insisted on the improvement of mutual relations” in talks with his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa.

He did not say when they had held talks.

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