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Iranian media say Bahrain emir welcomes invitation

TEHRAN, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Iranian media reported on Wednesday that Bahrain's emir had welcomed an invitation to visit Iran, a country once accused by Bahrain of trying to fan unrest in the Gulf Arab state.

Iranian newspapers said Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said he hoped to accept the invitation from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami as soon as he could.

The invitation was conveyed to the Bahraini emir during a visit to Manama by the deputy minister for Arab-African affairs, Mohammad Sadr, in a written message from Khatami, the newspapers said.

Sadr's visit follows one by Bahrain's foreign minister in May and comes amid a growing rapprochement between non-Arab Iran and Gulf Arab states.

The Sunni Moslem leaders of Bahrain have accused Iran of encouraging unrest among the Shi'ite majority in the Gulf Arab state but the two countries have taken steps to normalise relations in recent months.

Iranian newspapers quoted Sadr as saying the bid for closer ties was part of Khatami's programme of expanding regional and bilateral relations.

``Apart from the people of Iran and Bahrain, all the countries and people of the region will benefit from the good and ever-growing ties between the two countries,'' Sadr said.


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