Security Tight ahead of Iran vs. Bahrain Qualifier

Iran and Bahrain are to play a 2014 World Cup qualifier here late Tuesday amid ongoing political tensions between the Gulf neighbors.

Security has been heightened for the game, and FIFA have sent a security expert to monitor the event in what the world football governing body described as a routine move, Iran's Fars news agency reported.

Ties between Iran and Bahrain have become strained this year as Bahrain's Sunni minority regime has, with Saudi Arabia's help, clamped down hard on pro-democracy protests by members of the majority Shiite population.

Iran, which is also predominantly Shiite, has repeatedly condemned the brutal crackdown and last week criticized heavy sentences meted out to arrested protesters.

Bahrain and Saudi football officials have expressed concern in recent months about the safety of their players during games in Iran.

Iran's media, however, have downplayed any chance of the tensions spilling over into Tuesday's Group E qualifier.

Iran's fans were expected to "warmly" welcome Bahrain "and chant mottos to show their full support for the Bahraini nation's quest for democracy and freedom," the Fars news agency said.

Both sides are level in Group E with leaders Iran ahead of second-placed Bahrain on goal difference. The Iranians are group favorites having qualified for the tournament three times - in 1978, 1998 and 2006.

Source: Agence France Presse

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