MANAMA, Bahrain, March 15 (UPI) -- The Iranian government Tuesday called the presence of Saudi troops in Bahrain "unacceptable," saying the move "will further complicate the issue."
Reports from the island monarchy did not indicate the Saudi troops, sent to Bahrain Monday, were confronting anti-government protesters in the Manama's Pearl Square, which has become ground zero for demonstrators seeking ouster of the monarchy, The New York Times reported.
"The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain's internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference as reported by the country's state-run media. "People have some legitimate demands and they are expressing them peacefully. It should not be responded to violently."
Iranian state-run media Monday classified the deployment as an invasion. Observers told the Times Saudi Arabia has been monitoring for weeks Bahrain's Shiite majority protests against the Sunni monarchy of King Hamad with concern if protesters prevail, the influence of rival Iran could grow in the region.
About 2,000 troops -- 1,200 from Saudi Arabia and 800 from the United Arab Emirates -- went to Bahrain as part of a force operating under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation coalition of Sunni rulers.
"This is the initial phase," a Saudi official said. "Bahrain will get whatever assistance it needs. It's open-ended."
Jassim Hussein Ali, a former lawmaker and a member of the opposition Wefaq party, told the Times protesters don't know what to expect.
"Bahrain is heading toward major problems, anarchy," he said. "This is an occupation, and this is not welcome."
The Gulf Cooperation Council forces aren't in Bahrain "to kill people," said a Saudi official said. "This is a GCC decision. We do not violate international law."