TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran rejects Bahrain's allegations that a terror cell uncovered in the tiny island nation has links to the Shiite powerhouse's Revolutionary Guard, an Iranian deputy foreign minister said.
Bahrain's public prosecutor on Sunday alleged the cell planned attacks against high profile sites, such as the Saudi Embassy in the Bahraini capital Manama and a Gulf causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The cell purportedly had contact with Iran's Guard, according to a Bahrain News Agency report, which gave no further details to back up the allegations.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian said the claims were "baseless and fabricated" and urged the Bahraini government to focus instead on repairing the "deep schism" between its ruling Sunni monarchy and Shiite majority.
Abdollahian spoke to the Arabic Language al-Alam channel late on Sunday.
"We reject such deceptive allegations," he said. "We believe it is necessity to deal peacefully and democratically with legitimate demands voiced over the past months by the Bahraini people."
Bahrain's Sunni leaders have repeatedly accused Iran of encouraging Shiite-led protests that erupted in February in the kingdom, a charge Iran denies.
The Bahraini claim followed recent U.S. accusations that an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard — which is closely tied to Iran's ruling clerics — was involved in a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Iran has denied the American charges.
Bahrain's majority Shiites insist they have no political links to Iran. Bahrain's Sunni monarchy and its Gulf allies claim that Iran seeks to gain another foothold in the Arab world through unrest in the tiny strategic nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
The unrest in Bahrain has killed more than 35 people since it began nearly nine months ago, inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere. Protesters say they are seeking greater rights and an end to the Sunni dynasty's hold on top political decisions. Bahrain's rulers have offered some compromises, such as expanding the powers of parliament, but not enough to satisfy the opposition.
The Iran-Bahrain tensions are not limited to politics.
On Saturday, Iran summoned Bahrain's envoy to Tehran to protest what it called mistreatment of Iranian football players and supporters following a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Manama.
Iran's official IRNA agency said security forces failed to confront some Bahraini supporters who threw water bottles and other objects at the Iranian players and supporters.