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Iran Sends Solidarity Flotilla Towards Bahrain

Sea birds sit on fishing traps set up near the shore off Muharraq, Bahrain, as ships pass through the Persian Gulf (file photo)

Iran is sending a solidarity flotilla to Bahrain, a move that could escalate regional tensions around the island kingdom's crackdown on mostly Shi'ite protesters.

Shi'ite-ruled Iran has been vocal in its dissent of Sunni-led Bahrain's treatment of protesters. The monarchy has used arrests, force and the addition of visiting Gulf troops to crush dissent.

Iran's English-language Press TV reported on Monday that 120 activists - many of them professors and students - were aboard the naval convoy. The Iranian Fars news agency said the flotilla consists of two ships and left from the port of Dayyer.

Press TV said the activists will ask Bahrain for permission to enters its waters, but added the request will not likely be granted.

The Reuters agency reported that the head of Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority told Al Arabiya television that the flotilla is "a blatant interference in Bahrain's internal affairs."

Hundreds have been arrested and dozens put on trial in special courts since protests in Bahrain were crushed in March. A state of emergency is due to be lifted on June 1.

Bahraini officials have said 24 people died in the unrest. According to human rights groups, the government has arrested hundreds in the aftermath of the protest.

Bahrain's top military leader says foreign forces will remain after it lifts emergency rule next month. Led by Saudi Arabia, a 1,500-strong foreign military presence has been in Bahrain since March.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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