Bahraini King says looking forward to improved relations with Iran

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said on Thursday in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that there is no reason to postpone the resumption of diplomatic relations between the kingdom and Iran, state news agency reported.

King Hamad added that the kingdom is looking forward to improve its relations with Iran.

Tiny Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet, has long blamed Tehran for stirring up its own majority Shi'ite Muslim population against Bahrain's Sunni monarchy.

The government came down hard on protests in 2011 when demonstrators, many from the Shi'ite majority, rose up to demand the downfall of Bahrain's monarchy in the Arab Spring. Bahrain partly blamed that unrest on Iran, an accusation Tehran denied.

Bahrain was the only Gulf state to have supported the U.S. and U.K. strikes against the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen earlier this year after that group launched its Red Sea attacks against shipping.

(Reporting by Jana Choukeir; writing by Maha El Dahan; editing by Philippa Fletcher, William Maclean)