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Bahrain says freezes Iran gas import plans – agency

Freezes plans to import gas from Iran over "interference"; Bahrain-Iran talks over gas also suspended in 2009

May 22, 2011 11:12 by

Bahrain has frozen plans to import natural gas from Iran over what it sees as Iranian “interference” in the Gulf Arab state, the Bahraini foreign minister was on Saturday quoted as saying.

Sunni-led Bahrain has accused Shi’ite power Iran of stoking protests by majority Shi’ites in the Gulf state which were put down in March with the help of Saudi and UAE troops.

Iran criticised the use of Saudi troops to quell the protests, drawing an accusation of interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs from the six Gulf Arab states, which are concerned about Iran’s influence in the region.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said that “the project to import Iranian gas is currently halted because of the blatant Iranian interference”, Bahrain’s state news agency BNA reported.

Sheikh Khaled also told the daily al-Watan that “the repeated provocative statements from Tehran would no doubt be an obstacle to any agreement between the two parties”, BNA added, without giving details of the delayed deal.

“However, the foreign minister denied that the project … was cancelled altogether, saying that the kingdom is looking forward to improved relations with Iran,” BNA said.

In June, Iran said it planned to sign a deal on exporting gas to Bahrain and that Bahrain would invest in the giant South Pars natural gas field in the Gulf.

Bahrain signed a preliminary agreement with Iran in 2008 to import 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Bahrain suspended gas talks in February 2009 for several months after an Iranian official reportedly made comments that appeared to question the small island kingdom’s sovereignty.

Iran has the world’s second largest gas reserves but has struggled to develop its oil and gas sector as Western firms steer clear because of U.N. and US sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear energy programme.

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