TEHRAN, Iran — A senior Iranian cleric on Friday urged Bahrain's majority Shiites to keep up their protests — until death or victory — against the Sunni monarchy in the tiny island kingdom.
Bahrain has been rocked by a month long uprising of the Shiite-led opposition against its Sunni rulers. And though there are no apparent links between Bahrain's Shiite opposition and Iran's predominantly Shiite nation, the Persian Gulf leaders are concerned that political gains by Bahrain's Shiites could give Iran a stepping stone to its archrival Saudi Arabia.
Iran has denounced the deployment of a Saudi-led force from Sunni Arab allies this week to prop up the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain.
In Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati spoke to worshippers after Friday prayers and called on "brothers and sisters" in Bahrain to "resist against the enemy until you die or win."
Jannati, a supporter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asked all Muslims to help the Bahraini Shiites "restore rights" and also accused the United States of being an "accomplice in all crimes."
After prayers, thousands of Iranians rallied against the crackdown in Bahraini, chanting against leaders of Bahrain and Saudi.
Iran on Wednesday recalled its ambassador from Bahrain. And on Tuesday, Tehran summoned Bahrain's charge d'affaires in Tehran to officially protest to the crackdown. The Saudi ambassador in Iran was summoned in a similar protest.
On Thursday, scores of students and clerics gathered in Tehran, angrily chanting against Saudi and Bahraini leaders outside the embassies of the two countries. The protesters blamed the United States for allegedly supporting the deployment of the 1,000-strong Saudi-led forces to Bahrain.
The official IRNA news agency reported late Thursday that Ahmadinejad and visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem discussed peace and security in the region. Without referring specifically to Bahrain, Ahmadinejad urged closer Tehran-Damascus cooperation for "securing the interests of nations in the region."