Iran hardliners sail for Bahrain

Two ships carrying 120 Iranian hardline activists have left for Bahrain, part of an effort to show solidarity with the Shiite majority population of the tiny island nation.

The leader of the group, Mahdi Eghrarian, was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying that the two ships left the port of Dayyer on Monday, sailing toward Bahrain.

It's not clear if they will be stopped by Iranian authorities, as two ships were during a similar attempt last month.

Eghrarian said one-third of the activists are women and ten of them children. The group is carrying messages of support, he said without elaborating.

"We've started moving towards international waters. We will carry on sailing towards Bahrain's borders as far as possible in order to be able to hand over letters and messages of the Iranian nation to the Bahraini nation," Fars quoted Eghrarian as saying.

In Bahrain, where unrest erupted in February, protesters from the Shiite majority have demanded that the kingdom's Sunni minority rulers grant them equal rights and a political voice.

Iran insists the Shiite-led opposition protests in Bahrain do not stem from a sectarian dispute but are an uprising against tyranny.

The U.S. has pressed its allies in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, to meet some of the protest movement's demands for reform. The opposition has appealed to the United States for stronger intervention to stop the crackdown.

(This version CORRECTS the number of activists, 120 instead of 190)