Bahrain's security would be threatened if international tensions over Iran flared into war and the kingdom wanted to be consulted so that could be prevented, a top official said on Wednesday.
The comments by Bahrain's chief of public security, Major General Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, reflected concern in the small Gulf Arab country, which is ruled by Sunni Muslims but has a majority Shiite population.
Shiite Iran is in dispute with the West over its nuclear programme, which Washington suspects is a cover for building an atomic bomb. Iran strongly denies this.
Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out military action to stop the programme, although the White House said on Wednesday U.S. President George W. Bush believed the issue could be resolved diplomatically.
"The level of tension currently concerning Iran is a further significant threat," Zayani said in a speech in London to the Royal United Services Institute, a security think-tank.
"Should the situation deteriorate, there will be a major impact in Bahrain, where a proportion of our Shiite population follow Iran's religious leadership blindly and apparently without question," said Zayani.
"In this connection and more generally, it is important to say that the actions of our allies often influence threat levels in Bahrain," he said.
"As partners we ask, rather in hope than in expectation, that we are consulted or at least given early warning of major escalation or other actions" that could have an internal impact on the kingdom.
Zayani later expanded on his comments in a telephone call with Reuters, saying "the whole region" needed to be consulted.
"The intention of the consultation is to ensure that war will not happen. The intention is to have peace. We are against war," said Zayani.
"We would like to have a diplomatic solution with Iran to clarify the nuclear issue," he said.
"The Iranian nuclear issue is a challenge for the whole region and war will be a challenge to all. We don't want escalation ... we hope it will end in a political solution."
Zayani said that while the majority of Bahrain's population of just over a million are Shiite like Iranians, they differ ethnically by virtue of being Arab.
"(Bahraini) people will not like to have war in the region. They follow Iran religiously but politically they are Bahrainis and Arab. They like to have a political solution. We've had enough war in the region for God knows since when."
His comments highlighted Bahrain's concern about the Iranian situation and its sensitivity over domestic sectarian issues.