Bahrain's king said Monday that a foreign plot to "subvert security and stability" in the Gulf island kingdom has been foiled, and praised the Saudi-led force he invited to help quell the unprecedented unrest in this majority Shiite nation.
Any reference to a foreign conspiracy against Bahrain's Sunni dynasty can be interpreted as jab at the region's Shiite powerhouse Iran. Gulf Sunni kings and sheiks are concerned Iran will gain more influence in the oil-rich region by helping Bahrain's Shiites in their revolt for greater political freedoms.
Bahrain is trying to crush a monthlong Shiite upraising against the Sunni monarchy that has been in power for 200 years. The revolt has been inspired by mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled the two countries' presidents.
Bahrain opposition's main demand is for a constitutional monarchy that would keep the royal family in power but would let people elected a government.
Authorities have vowed to root out dissent. The king declared a three-month emergency rule and invited armies from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni-ruled Gulf states to help quell unrest in Bahrain, the home of U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa praised the Saudi-led force and said "Bahrain is bigger and stronger today than ever."
"I here announce the failure of the fomented subversive plot against security and stability," the king was quoted as saying by state-run Bahrain News Agency. The king spoke to the commander of the Saudi-led force and said its troops give Bahrain strength and confidence.
Opposition leaders on Sunday called the rulers to pull the Saudi-led troops out of Bahrain.
Neither Shiite power Iran nor Sunni heavyweight Saudi Arabia are a solution for Bahrain, said Ali Salman, a senior opposition leader.
"We don't want Iranians to come. We don't want a big problem in this small country," Salman said, adding that the solution to the country's crisis has to come from its people.
Iran has condemned the presence of the Gulf force in Bahrain and Shiites across the Middle East have been outraged by the deadly crackdown of protest, that has killed at least 13 people.
Last week Bahrain asked the Iranian ambassador to leave the country.
On Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, told Iran's state-run Press TV that Bahrain's charge d'affaires in Tehran was informed on Sunday that one of the Bahraini diplomats in Iran must leave. No other details were immediately known.
Bahraini authorities have widened pressure on dissent after imposing emergency rule in the country, interrogating human rights activists and detaining doctors from the state-run hospital who helped treat protesters at the height of the uprising. Salmaniya medical complex remains under control of Bahrain's military.
Security forces overran the main protest camp in the capital on Wednesday, setting off clashes that killed at least five people, including two policemen.
More than 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shiites, and most are campaigning for a constitutional monarchy, but calls by hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed Sunnis, who fear the unrest serves Iran, separated from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by only a short stretch of Gulf waters.