x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bahrain official bemoans Iran's encroachment, seeks UN help

Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa said UAE forces were needed as a shield against Iran.

DUBAI //There is no state of emergency in Bahrain, the nation's foreign minister said yesterday, but rather a "national safety situation" due to interference from Iran.

Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa told reporters on the sidelines of an anti-piracy conference in Dubai that the Gulf Peninsula Shield Force was needed to counter Iran's effect on his country.

"We have never seen a sustained campaign from Iran on Bahrain and the Gulf like we've seen in the last two months," he said.

Meanwhile, Iran's foreign ministry has said the allegations of interference in Bahrain, where Shiites form the majority, targeted "Muslim unity", according to the state television website.

"The repetitive and false accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran in the recent Persian Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) statement are rejected and unfounded," it quoted ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.

The GCC - which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE - called on the UN Security Council this week to halt Iranian interference in Gulf affairs.

Mr al Khalifa said a letter had been sent to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon with evidence of threats from Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hizbollah.

He denied reports that officials were aiming to dissolve Shiite opposition groups, despite a lawsuit filed last week by the country's ministry of justice and Islamic affairs against the Islamic Action Association and Al Wefaq.

"Wefaq committed some violations. There is a court case, but there is no witch hunt here," he said.

"We are not dissolving Wefaq, we are not asking for it to be dissolved. Wefaq will stay. We want to see Wefaq as a partner for the future and that's what we expect to happen."

Addressing reports that the national football team had been arrested for protesting, the minister said only some players, who were also members of the Bahrain Defence Force, were held for violating their terms of service.

Demands for constitutional amendments and reforms, led mainly by Shiites, were quelled by Sunni leaders last month.

Calls against government corruption were "very serious" and should be addressed through parliament and the legislative process, the foreign minister said. He labelled a call for "toppling the government", however, as "something that no one can live with".

The Salmaniya Medical Complex, which has been at the centre of clashes between the government and protesters, had been a "no-go hospital" for a long time, Mr al Khalifa said.

"Instead of seeing it being portrayed as occupied, actually it's been liberated," he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had called the government's takeover of the hospital a "blatant violation of international law", while government officials have accused hospital staff of sheltering "organised gangs".

econroy@thenational.ae

chuang@thenational.ae