Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to boost relations with Bahrain on Saturday, assuring this staunch US ally in the Gulf not to fear a military buildup in the region and finalizing an important gas export deal. "Iran doesn't expect any military escalation in the region," Ahmadinejad told reporters during a half-day stop to Bahrain on his way to a summit of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in neighboring Saudi Arabia. The hard-line president played down talk of a possible American strike against Iran because of the Islamic Republic's refusal to stop uranium enrichment, which the US and its allies fear could hide a covert nuclear weapons program. Bahrain and other small Gulf Arab states worry a face-off between Iran and the United States would imperil their oil-based economies and destabilize the region. Their also fear Iranian retaliation for their alliance with the US, whose 5th Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain. Ahmadinejad said after meeting Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa that his trip aimed at expanding "economic and cultural relations" between the two countries. He signed a memorandum of understanding to export natural gas to Bahrain. "Iran will provide one million cubic feet per day of natural gas, and the details are expected to be finalized within a year before signing a deal on this strategic project," said Bahrain's foreign minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. Al-Khalifa said that "a new page of relations based on optimism has now been opened," with Iran.