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Bahrain, Iran recall ambassadors

LONDON, Dec. 27 -- Bahrain and Iran have recalled their ambassadors in a cooling of relations apparently linked to recent anti- government violence in Bahrain, a London-based Arabic newspaper said Tuesday. The newspaper al-Hayat said Jawad Turkabadi, the Iranian ambassador in Bahrain, left the Gulf island nation Saturday, 48 hours after Bahrain recalled Khalil Moayed, its envoy in Tehran.

Before leaving Bahrain, Turkabadi met Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak al- Khalifa, the Bahraini foreign minister, who asked the Iranian diplomat to convey an oral message to the Iranian authorities, the newspaper said. The content of the message was not disclosed. The newspaper said pro-democracy demonstrations on the island, which resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests, had been described in a Dec. 17 statement by the Bahraini Interior Ministry as not spontaneous, 'but planned and backed by foreign propaganda.' But the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat said the Bahraini authorities pointed the finger of accusation at Iran. It quoted unnamed Bahraini officials as saying Monday that 'Radio Tehran is the only source of incorrect news' about events in Bahrain. Relations between Bahrain, a former British protectorate, and Iran have often been strained since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, whose leaders revived a historical claim to the island. Shiite Iran under the late shah had dropped its claim following a 1970 United Nations referendum in which the Bahrainis opted for independence. Bahrain has a majority Shiite population and demonstrations began after the Dec. 5 arrest of Shiite clergyman Ali Salman. Salman had been collecting signatures on a petition that asked the government to restore Parliament, which was suspended in 1975. In almost two weeks of disturbances, at least four civilians and a policeman were reported killed and scores of protesters detained.

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