Bahrain's press condemned Wednesday claims by a hard-line Iranian newspaper that the Shiite-majority Gulf archipelago is an Iranian province which should be returned to the Islamic republic.
"Such claims represent an outrageous interference in the affairs of an independent and sovereign state," said the al-Ayyam daily in response to comments by Hossein Shariatmadari, managing director of Iran's Kayhan newspaper.
Shariatmadari is appointed by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Shariatmadari had written in Kayhan that "public demand in Bahrain is the reunification of this province with its motherland, the Islamic Iran.
"It goes without saying that such an indisputable right for Iran and the people of this province should not and cannot be overlooked," he said, claiming that Bahrain was separated from Iran "through an illicit conformity between the former Shah and the governments of Britain and United States."
Although there was no official response in Manama from Shariatmadari's remarks, the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) condemned the statement, saying that it was "unfounded and aims to sow sedition."
"Such outdated claims have no credibility," GCC secretary general Abdulrahman al-Attiyah said, according to Bahrain's official news agency BNA.
Other Bahraini newspapers also condemned Shariatmadari's claims.
"(Bahrain) was never and will never be part of Iran, whether during the time of the Shah or the Islamic revolution," al-Waqt daily said.
Akhbar al-Khaleej newspaper said that "the independence of Bahrain, as well as its sovereignty and Arab (identity) are indisputable established facts."
Bahrain was a Persian territory until 1782, when the al-Khalifa family gained control over it. The family later entered into a series of agreements with Britain in the 19th century by which it became a British protectorate until it gained independence in 1971.
The island state of Bahrain, which is ruled by a Sunni dynasty, is a key ally of the United States and is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.
Bahrain's Shiites led protests in the early 1990s demanding the restoration of the elected parliament which was scrapped in 1975. The Shiite opposition took part in the kingdom's legislative elections in 2006 and won the largest share of seats in the elected chamber.