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Bahrain reveals plot for uprising

Bahrain yesterday claimed to have fresh evidence of Iran's involvement in organising a plot to overthrow its government and establish a pro-Iranian Islamic regime.

Tehran denied the allegations and refused to reduce diplomatic representation between the two countries to charge d'affaires level as Bahrain demanded.

Bahrain's Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, appeared before a special session of the Shura, an appointed consultative council and the nearest body to a parliament, to discuss the next step.

The Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa presented "new evidence" and confessions made by another five members of the military wing of Hizbollah-Bahrain, bringing the total of those who have confessed to 34 among the 44 detainees. "The new evidence implicated the Iranian Foreign Ministry for facilitating the movement of Bahraini recruits trained by Iranian Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards in Iran and Lebanon," he said. The council was also told that an armed uprising for 300 "terrorists" had been planned.

Western diplomats are paying special attention to the timing of Bahrain's announcement of the uncovering of the plot.

The revelation came less than 48 hours after the Emir Sheikh Issa bin- Salman al-Khalifa gave a speech to the 30-member Shura, which is coming to the end of its two-year term. The Emir promised to increase the membership and expand the role of the council in what is seen by Western diplomats as a first step to turn it into a parliament.

"It was wise of the Bahrainis not to let the events of the plot get in the way of the Emir's plans to expand the role of the Shura," one Western diplomat said. The demands of the opposition such as the London-based Bahraini Freedom Movement have always centred on power-sharing.

The proposals regarding the Shura and the uncovering of the conspiracy "might just serve as a way out of the present crisis in Bahrain", one Western diplomat said. A majority of Bahrainis would unite to face the assumed threat, while the idea of a new role for the Shura council as a place for public debate had wide appeal.