BEIRUT - Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah denied on Thursday it had given military training to Shi'ite Bahraini protesters who have been demanding reforms in the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab kingdom.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in an interview with pan-Arab Al Hayat newspaper on Wednesday that Hezbollah, which he described as a terrorist organization, had trained Bahraini "elements" in Lebanon.
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Last week Bahrain lodged a formal complaint to the Lebanese government over Iran-backed Hezbollah's offer of support to the protesters, highlighting growing tensions in the world's largest oil-exporting region between Sunni-ruled Arab countries and non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran.
In a recent televised speech Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah offered support to the protesters in Bahrain, but did not specify what kind of help.
"The accusation of training and attempting to give the issue of what is happening in Bahrain a military or security dimension is something that we cannot be silent about," Hezbollah said in a statement.
"We have to affirm that our Bahraini brothers did not ask us for any military or security training on any day and we have not given any training of that kind," it said, adding that the group had only provided political and moral support for the protests.
Hezbollah denied it had any cadres or Lebanese individuals operating in the Gulf nation "and Hezbollah does not have any cells in Bahrain, either composed of Bahrainis or any other nationalities".
Bahrain also suspended flights to Lebanon and warned its nationals not
to travel there after Nasrallah criticized Arab states for backing
Bahrain's rulers while supporting the rebels in Libya.
Sunni rulers imposed martial law and brought in troops from Sunni-led
Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, to quell weeks of unrest during
pro-democracy demonstrations by Bahrain's majority Shi'ites.
Twenty four people were killed in clashes between police and protesters, according to the government.
renewed on Thursday its condemnation of the Bahraini government for the
"arbitrary and repressive measures" it has taken against Bahrainis.
Bahrain's opposition Shi'ite Wefaq party says 250 people have been
detained and another 44 have gone missing since the crackdown.