King of Bahrain says subversive 'external plot' has been foiled

Analysts see finger pointed at Iran after King Hamad bin Isa tells officers from Saudi-led Peninsula Shield Force in Bahrain that ploy 'has been fomented for 20 to 30 years for the ground to be ripe for subversive designs'.

Family members and others mourn at the funeral yesterday of Abdulrusul Hajair, apparently beaten to death during unrest in Bahrain.
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MANAMA // Bahrain's government yesterday claimed to have thwarted a subversive, "foreign plot" that had been brewing for decades, and threatening the entire Gulf region, for the country's recent unrest.

"An external plot has been fomented for twenty to thirty years for the ground to be ripe for subversive designs," said King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, in a statement issued late yesterday from the state-run Bahrain News Agency. "I here announce the failure of the fomented subversive plot," the king reportedly told officers from the Saudi-led Peninsula Shield Force, including a contingent from the UAE, that entered Bahrain last week.

The king's statement did not elaborate on who was behind the alleged plot but, with tensions heightened between Bahrain and Iran following a month of unrest on the island, some believe it was a reference to the Gulf island's neighbour.

"In my opinion this is about Iran," said Faisal Foulad, a former Bahraini MP and current secretary-general of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society. "Iran was digging to make an interference in Bahrain."

Both Bahrain and Iran have recalled their ambassadors in recent weeks. Tehran has been vocal in its condemnation of the Bahraini government's violent clampdown on pro-reform protesters, which has left at least 25 dead in the last month including demonstrators and police.

Bahrain's foreign ministry also "strongly denounced" comments made by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, in a speech he gave on Sunday which strongly criticised the government's use of force.

"Bahrain holds the Lebanese government responsible for the repercussions of those statements and false allegations which will undoubtedly impact on bilateral relations," the ministry said.

Kuwaiti naval vessels arrived to Bahrain to join the Peninsula Shield yesterday, according to Bahrain News Agency, which also reported that Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed al Khalifa, the commander of the Bahrain Defence Forces, said the unrest in Bahrain had posed a threat to the "stability of all GCC member states".

Yesterday in Abu Dhabi, Abdul Rahman al Attiyah, the council's secretary-general told reporters that the GCC force in Bahrain is not there to get involved in domestic politics, but that there was no timetable yet for a withdrawal.

Meanwhile, members of Bahrain's Shura, or consultative council, voiced support for the national dialogue announced by the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa last month. Sheikh Salman had announced that issues, such as a contentious naturalisation programme and a more representative system of government, would be open for discussion.

Although a general strike is still in place, many businesses were open in central Manama yesterday. There were noticeably fewer troops deployed around the city and some schools were due to go back from today.

However, the mood in many of the Shia villages remain tense, with reports of nightly raids and arrests. Yesterday hundreds defied a ban on protests and marched through the village of Karzakan, but no clashes were reported. Some of the villages have closed off their main access roads with makeshift roadblocks, in anticipation of the return of security forces.

Funerals for two of those killed in recent days were held yesterday. Jawad al Shamlan and Abdul Rasool al Hujairi disappeared at a checkpoint last week, according to his family.

In the Shia village of Buri, thousands came out to pay their respects for al Hujairi, whose 12-year-old daughter Fatima consoled mourners.

"I don't want people to cry for my father, he is in a better place and he's a martyr," she told them.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg