Protest-crushing Iran warns 'no force' against Bahrain's protests
TEHRAN - Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday demanded that Bahraini leaders be wise and not use violence in their handling of anti-government protests, the state-run Fars news agency reported.
Salehi said the Bahraini authorities should avoid using "violence and force against the population", adding that Iran expects "the Bahraini government to be wise in responding to the demands of protesters and respecting their rights."
Protests flared up in Bahrain on February 14 and seven people died in a subsequent crackdown on demonstrations, according to an AFP tally based on relatives of victims and opposition officials.
Opposition protesters are demanding far-reaching democratic reform in the mainly Shiite country which has been ruled by a Sunni Muslim dynasty for more than 200 years.
Bahrain's opposition said Monday it considered any foreign military intervention to be an occupation, after a Saudi official said the kingdom's troops had entered the neighbouring Gulf state.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday urged Bahrain to undertake rapid and significant reform, citing concerns in Washington that the longer the instability dragged on the more likely Iran, a Shiite theocracy, would profit.
In 2009, the Iranian government brutally crushed its own pro-democracy protests, with many demonstrators killed and activists hanged.