Bahrain ordered an Iranian diplomat to leave the island kingdom as ties between the two nations worsen and tensions rise between the Shiite powerhouse and Sunni Arab states in the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
The state-owned Bahrain News Agency reported late Monday that Hujatullah Rahmani, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Manama, was declared persona non grata and ordered out within 72 hours.
Bahrain's Sunni monarch declared martial law last month and invited about 1,500 Saudi-led troops from the Gulf to help contain a Shiite uprising that Sunni leaders around the Middle East believe could open the way for greater influence by Iran.
Tehran has no history of political ties to Bahrain's Shiites, but it has denounced the troop deployment and condemned the crackdown.
After the Iranian diplomat was booted out, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that Tehran reserves the right to take a tit-for-tat action. Mehmanparast said the expulsion was aimed at covering up internal problems in the tiny island nation.
Bahrain is the home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, Washington's main counterweight against Iran's expanding military influence in the oil-rich Gulf.
Last week, Bahrain's foreign minister said the Saudi-led force will stay indefinitely to counter perceived threats from Iran _ threats that Bahraini rulers used as a reason for their harsh crackdown on the Shiite opposition.
Opposition leaders in Bahrain have repeatedly denied Iran's role in a wave of demonstrations and sit-ins by Bahrain's Shiite majority demanding greater political freedoms and equal rights.
At least 30 people have died since Feb. 15, when anti-government protests erupted in Bahrain, inspired by the uprisings in the Arab world. Four opposition supporters have also died in police custody.
Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders, human rights activists, athletes and Shiite professionals such as doctors and lawyers and their relatives _ including wives of at least two prominent physicians _ have been taken into custody since Bahrain declared emergency rule March 15.