( AP ) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday played down talk of a possible American strike against his country, while assuring this staunch U.S. ally in the Gulf not to fear a military buildup in the region.
"Iran doesn't expect any military escalation in the region," the hardline president 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.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are high over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program and its refusal to stop uranium enrichment. The U.S. and its allies fear Iran aims to make nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its program is peaceful.
Bahrain and other small Gulf Arab states worry a faceoff between Iran and the United States would imperil their oil-based economies and destabilize the region. They also fear Iranian retaliation for their alliance with the U.S., 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.