Bahrain accused of razing mosques

MANAMA, Bahrain, April 23, (Agencies): Bahrain’s main opposition party says authorities have demolished 16 mosques as part of crackdown on Shiite dissent in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom over the past month.
Al Wefaq says 30 Shiite places of worship — including 16 mosques — have been destroyed since martial law was declared last month.
A statement Saturday said the government has no legal justification for attacks on Shiite holy places and suggests that the destruction is a punishment for weeks of anti-government protest by Bahrain’s Shiite majority against minority Sunni rulers.
The demolition is likely to further inflame sectarian tensions in the island kingdom, the home of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf states sent troops to Bahrain to help the ruling dynasty contain the unrest.
Meanwhile, the Bahraini Government attaches special concern to maintaining national security and stability, affirmed Sheikh Khaled Bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, on Sunday.
Such a policy is necessary for the progress of the country, he said in a meeting with the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain Sheikh Azzam Al-Sabah, who in turn assured the premier that the Kingdom would resolve the current crisis and emerge from it stronger and more united.
The two sides, during the meeting, discussed the bilateral ties, issues of common concern and regional issues.
Iran on Saturday urged Bahrain to heed the demands of its people before it was too late, and insisted nothing could justify Saudi intervention amid Shiite-led protests in the Gulf kingdom.
“The government of Bahrain should put an end to this crisis and meet the legitimate rights of its people before it is too late,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in remarks broadcast and translated into English by Iran’s Press TV channel.
The Islamic republic, which vocally supports uprisings that have swept the Arab world, has strongly condemned a violent crackdown against the Shiite-led protesters in Sunni-ruled Bahrain.
Bahrain and other Gulf Cooperation Council member states have accused predominantly Shiite Iran of plotting against its security and of fanning confessional discord among its citizens.
On Monday, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa said Saudi-led GCC troops had entered his country “to deter an external threat,” a reference to Iran.
“We wrote a letter to the secretary general of the United Nations, and in that letter we have a full attachment on the threats and all the evidence we have against Iran and (the Lebanese Shiite movement) Hezbollah,” he said.
Salehi rejected the accusations of Iranian interference and said his country had always respected “the independence and territorial sovereignty” of Bahrain.
But he went on to say that Bahrainis should have the “right to exercise their civil rights, like any other citizen in the region.”
Tensions between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbours have heightened as Tehran accuses Riyadh of destablising the region by dispatching its troops into Bahrain to deal with the pro-democracy revolt at the appeal of its monarch.
Salehi said even the Gulf’s Shield Force agreement, which was formed to respond to military aggression against GCC members, provided “no justification” for the Saudi military involvement.
He also warned Arab kingdoms against underestimating the popular revolts.
“Do not lose your path and do not go in the wrong direction. Do not think that you will achieve your goal if you manage to stifle the sound of justice-seekers,” Press TV quoted Salehi as saying.
“The nations who have revolted will not be easily suppressed. Sooner or later, they will achieve their goals,” he said.

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