TEHRAN, Iran – Bahrain, a key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf region, joined Iran on Sunday in opposing American military action against Iraq.
"Iran and Bahrain declare their determined opposition to any unilateral military action against Iraq," said a joint statement issued at the end of a two-day visit to Tehran by Bahrain's king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
The statement, carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency, called for respecting "Iraq's territorial integrity and noninterference in Iraq's internal affairs."
Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. The tiny island was a base for America to run supplies and other operations for the war in Afghanistan. Washington also has granted Bahrain major non-NATO ally status.
But the king's comments Sunday mark Bahrain's clearest opposition yet to the idea of American military intervention in Iraq.
Toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a U.S. policy goal, and President Bush has raised the threat of a military assault to achieve it. Bush has said other tactics are also being considered.
Iran, which fought a war with neighboring Iraq from 1981 to 1988, repeatedly has opposed U.S. intervention.
In a meeting with Sheik Hamad, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "any power planning to take action against the Islamic world today will definitely meet great problems," Iran TV reported.
Khamenei said "any incident in this region will be detrimental to those creating it," an apparent reference to the United States.
Dialogue and closer relations between Iran and its Arab neighbors would help stop American threats, he added.
"The U.S. president openly speaks of a crusade war. Under such circumstances, Muslim countries should get closer together and increase their cooperation," the television quoted Khamenei as saying.
In the Saudi coastal city of Jiddah, visiting Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Sunday he opposed an attack on Iraq, saying it would have "serious repercussions for security in the region."
Saleh told reporters Yemen "is maintaining the Arab stance that rejects striking [Iraq] because it is unjustifiable, especially after Iraq has declared its willingness to start dialogue on [weapons] inspection."
The president of Yemen -- a southern Arab peninsula state that forged close ties with America following the Sept. 11 terror attacks -- said changing Iraq's regime is "the business of the people of this country."
The joint Iranian-Bahraini statement said both states would soon sign a security pact because "the two countries believe security for each was security for the other."
Sheik Hamad is the first Bahraini leader to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. His visit reflects a significant improvement in ties after years of unstable and sometimes tense relations.