Iran says Bahrain plot claim "baseless"

DUBAI/TEHRAN Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:12pm GMT

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DUBAI/TEHRAN Nov 14 (Reuters) - Iran denied on Monday it had any link to an alleged plot to stage attacks in Bahrain and a lawyer for two accused men said reports they had confessed were not true.

Bahrain said last week Qatar had handed over four men who Manama accuses of planning to attack the Interior Ministry, the Saudi embassy and a causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It said a fifth was arrested in Bahrain.

On Sunday, a Bahraini prosecution spokesman said the plot was coordinated with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia as well as two Bahraini opposition figures in London.

He told state media that some of the men had confessed to this. But a lawyer for two, speaking to Reuters, said they told their family by telephone that they had not confessed at all.

The allegation surfaced before the expected release of an independent rights commission report on the government's crushing of a democracy protest movement earlier this year.

Bahrain, a U.S. ally which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, says it is implementing measures to expand democratic government and accuses the main opposition parties of organising protests in coordination with Iran with a Shi'ite sectarian agenda.

Most of the island state's population is Shi'ite but the Saudi-allied royal family is Sunni Muslim.

"IRANOPHOBIA"

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said the plot was a fabrication driven by "Iranophobia", replicating a U.S. claim last month to have uncovered an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

"Instead of propagandising and presenting baseless claims, Bahraini officials should do something about the large rift that has opened between the government and the people," Abdollahian said in comments carried by the website of Iran's al-Aalam TV.

"(These) baseless accusations repeat the comical and fabricated scenario of America."

Mohsen al-Alawi, lawyer for two of the men, said Isa Ahmed Shamloh, decided to join his friend, driver Ali Abbas Mubarak on a trip to Saudi Arabia for a change of air. He said the driver picked up the two others, Mohammed Sahwan and Emad Abdelhussein, in Saudi Arabia and it was not clear why they had gone to Qatar.

"Shamloh said by telephone that they had not confessed," Alawi said, adding he hoped to have access to the men next week.

Bahrain named an Iranian, Asad Qasir, as the Revolutionary Guards link who trained one of the arrested men in machinegun and explosives use during a trip to Iran.

Alawi said Qasir was also cited in the case of 21 men sentenced this year for leading the protests of February and March. "They are trying to link the cases," Alawi said.

Eight of the 21 men, including politicians, clerics, rights activists and a blogger, were found guilty of charges including "forming a terrorist group to change the constitution".

Tension between Iran and U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states has been high over Iran's nuclear energy programme, which Gulf rulers fear will give Tehran a nuclear weapon and increase its prestige among ordinary Arabs as a regional leader.

In Kuwait, the Foreign Ministry summoned Iran's ambassador on Monday over the arrest of two Kuwaitis whom Tehran had said were detained with "spying equipment", Kuwaiti state media said.

Kuwait's journalists association said they had entered Iran legally to prepare a TV programme.

(Additional reporting by Eman Goma in Kuwait; Writing by Andrew Hammond)

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