MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said a foreign plot against his kingdom had been foiled and thanked troops brought in from neighboring countries to help end increasing unrest after weeks of protests.
"An external plot has been fomented for 20 to 30 years until the ground was ripe for subversive designs ... I here announce the failure of the fomented plot," the state news agency BNA quoted him overnight as telling troops.
King Hamad told the forces that such if such a plot succeeded in one Gulf Arab country, it could spill into neighboring states, BNA said.
The ferocity of a crackdown last week by Bahrain forces, aided by the entrance of troops from Sunni-ruled Gulf countries, stunned Bahrain's majority Shi'ites, the main force of the protests, and angered the region's non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran.
Iran, which supports Shi'ite groups in Iraq and Lebanon, has complained to the United Nations and asked neighbors to join it in urging Saudi Arabia to withdraw forces from Bahrain.
King Hamad's announcement came after a day of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions between the Gulf island kingdom and Iran.
In a sign of rising tensions between the countries, Bahrain expelled Iran's charge d'affaires on Sunday, accusing him of contacts with some opposition groups, a diplomatic source said.
He left shortly after the Iranian ambassador, asked to leave last week. Iran expelled a Bahraini diplomat in response.
Bahrain has also said previously that it arrested opposition leaders for dealing with foreign countries.
(Editing by Jon Hemming)