Iranian President dismisses war talk in Bahrain visit


"We don’t expect a new war in the region… and don’t wish war to break out… But we have made all the preparations to face this eventuality (although) we don’t expect (military conflict)," he told reporters.

Ahmadinejad said he was unaware of a recent statement by a top general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who warned his forces were ready "if necessary" to carry out suicide operations in the Gulf in response to any US strike.

"I personally did not hear this statement," Ahmadinejad said, according to an Arabic translation of his remarks in Farsi, following talks with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.

He accused the United States, which suspects Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, of "contriving crises" in the region, saying Washington was "unhappy with the progress made in the Iranian nuclear file."

Ahmadinejad, whose country insists its nuclear programme is purely civilian, later flew to Saudi Arabia to attend a rare summit of the OPEC oil cartel.

Ties between Iran and Bahrain have on occasion been strained, most notably in July when an Iranian newspaper article claimed Bahrain belonged to Iran. Iran’s foreign minister then flew to Manama to defuse the crisis.

Tiny Sunni Muslim-ruled Bahrain has a Shiite majority, the same branch of Islam that dominates in Iran.

The Gulf country is also home to the US Fifth Fleet tasked with securing the Strait of Hormuz through which much of the world’s oil supplies must pass.

In interviews with British newspapers earlier this month, Bahrain’s crown prince said Iran was developing atomic weapons or the capability to do so, becoming the first leader in a Gulf Arab state to openly accuse Tehran of lying about its nuclear work.

"While they don’t have the bomb yet, they are developing it, or the capability for it," Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said, warning that "the whole region" would be drawn into any military conflict.

But Sheikh Salman also urged a diplomatic solution to the standoff between the West and Bahrain’s neighbour.

"No one is talking of military strikes. We are talking about preventing the outbreak of war in the region," Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa told reporters on Saturday.

The Iranian nuclear issue is "a big and sensitive" one, "but efforts are continuing to avert a war in the region," he added.

Ahmadinejad said his talks with King Hamad were "constructive and good," covering bilateral and regional matters.

The leaderships of Bahrain and Iran are "intent on pressing ahead with enhancing bilateral relations," he said.

Ahmadinejad’s brief visit was the second by an Iranian president since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. His predecessor Mohammad Khatami came to Manama in May 2003.

Sheikh Khaled said the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding related to oil and gas.

He did not give details but the two countries have been discussing the supply of Iranian gas to Bahrain. Bahrain’s oil and gas minister, Abdul Hussein Mirza, recently said he expected Manama to start importing Iranian gas in 2012.


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