Bahrain has halted talks with Iran over natural gas imports after remarks by an Iranian official earlier in the month allegedly questioned the Gulf Arab state's sovereignty, a local paper reported, allegations Iran denied.
Ali Nateqnouri, head of public inspection at the office of Iran's supreme leader of the Islamic revolution, allegedly said in early February that Bahrain used to be Iran's 14th governorate and once had a representative in the Iranian parliament.
"The kingdom of Bahrain has stopped negotiations with Iran concerning importing natural gas," a senior Bahraini official said on condition of anonymity.
"The decision was taken after the regretful remarks that touch on Bahrain's sovereignty and do not support the relations between the two countries."
Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa summoned Iran's ambassador to the kingdom to protest against the remarks, Bahrain's news agency reported on Feb. 12.
"These remarks negatively affected relations between the two countries at all levels, including economic ties, and oil in particular," Bahraini newspaper Al Ayam quoted an unidentified source as saying.
The report said a delegation from Bahrain's National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA) left Iran because of the remarks.
Iran has repeatedly denied having claims over Bahrain's sovereignty.
"Our enemies want to create dispute among the regional countries by spreading false information," Hassan Qashqavi from Iran's Foreign Ministry said accroding to Iranian media on Wednesday. "We respect Bahrain's independency."
The two countries last year signed a memorandum of understanding over the import of 1 billion cubic feet of Iranian natural gas per day by Bahrain.
Bahrain is looking to increase its gas supply to meet rising domestic demand. It has also held talks with Gulf Arab neighbor Qatar on gas imports and is currently tendering the exploration of onshore gas at 20,000 feet below sea level.