Bahraini Shiite mourners carry the pictures of 28-year-old Ahmed Farhan during his funeral in the Shiite town of Sitra, on the outskirts of Manama, on March 18, 2011. Thousands of Bahrainis gathered for the funeral of the demonstrator slain hours after the king declared martial law in response to a month of escalating protests. Shiites account for 70 percent of the tiny island's half-million people but they are widely excluded from high-level posts and positions in the police and military. UPI\Isa Ebrahim | License Photo
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 7 (UPI) -- Washington has evidence to suggest Tehran is trying to take advantage of the political conflict in Bahrain, the U.S. secretary of defense said in Riyadh.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke with officials in Saudi Arabia before heading Thursday to meet with U.S. troops in Iraq.
Gates said at a news conference in Riyadh that he met with Saudi officials for more than an hour. Talks focused on the bilateral military relationship between Washington and Riyadh with additional focus on Iran, he said.
Gates said Saudi officials didn't seem particularly concerned by Iranian action in the region, though he added that Washington had information suggesting Tehran was meddling in the affairs of Bahrain.
"We already have evidence that the Iranians are trying to exploit the situation in Bahrain," he said. "We also have evidence that they are talking about what they can do to try to create problems elsewhere as well."
Forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deployed to Bahrain last month under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council in an effort to contain the political violence. Iran said it considered the action as illegal.