ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Bahrain said on Saturday it had recalled its ambassador to Tehran for consultations after what it said were repeated hostile statements made by Iranian officials.
The statements were a reflection of Iran's unfriendly attitude toward the Gulf Arab monarchy and an interference in its internal affairs, a statement on state news agency BNA said.
Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, accuses its opposition of links to Shi'ite Iran, which both it and Tehran deny.
The kingdom has experienced sporadic unrest since 2011 when its security forces ended mass protests calling for democracy in the country, which has a Shi'ite Muslim majority but a Sunni ruling family.
Bahrain said it was hopeful relations would normalize between the two countries but said repeated Iranian statements were evidence of "a strategy built on interference in the affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain."
Bahrain's opposition says the government, backed by its Sunni ally Saudi Arabia, is attempting to stifle free speech by detaining, prosecuting and jailing peaceful political dissidents.
The kingdom previously recalled its ambassador to Iran in 2011 to protest Tehran's criticism of the Gulf-backed crackdown on Shi'ite protesters at the time, reinstating him in 2012.
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Ros Russell)