MANAMA (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Bahrain this month, an embassy official said on Wednesday, days after British newspapers quoted the kingdom’s crown prince accusing Iran of building a nuclear bomb.
The Times and The Daily Telegraph newspapers on Friday quoted Bahrain’s Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa as saying Iran was developing nuclear weapons, a view shared by the West but rarely expressed in public by Iran’s Arab neighbours.
Iran denies the accusations, and says its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes.
An account of the crown prince’s interview with the British press carried by the official news agency contained no reference to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and stressed his desire for a diplomatic push to avert any regional conflict.
“Ahmadinejad is coming to Bahrain in November, but the date has not been finalised. He will discuss bilateral ties and regional issues of common interest,” Iranian embassy spokesman Abulghasem Vafaei said, declining to give further details.
Bahrain, a U.S. ally, is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which has conducted several war-game exercises in waters close to Iran’s coast.
Since the British newspaper articles were published, Iran’s state news agency IRNA carried a report quoting Bahrain’s foreign minister saying the prince’s words were “distorted”.
The Sunni-ruled kingdom of about 750,000 has a Shi’ite majority, and sectarian tensions have flared in the past. Many Bahrainis are of Iranian origin.
In July, comments by the editor of an Iranian newspaper that Bahrain is part of Iran and should be returned provoked uproar, and were followed by a visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who publicly rejected the comments.
Ahmadinejad is expected to take part in a summit of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Riyadh between November 17-18.
Reporting by Mohammed Abbas, Editing by Samia Nakhoul