Bahrain has decided to drop a ban on imports of Israeli goods after signing a free-trade agreement with the United States, the state's foreign minister was quoted as saying.

"Yes, we have indeed taken this decision," Kuwait's daily Al Rai Al Aam quoted Shaikh Mohammad Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa as saying in New York.

The remarks, in response to Israeli media reports about the ban being dropped, came in an article to be published in the newspaper's yesterday's edition.

"A free-trade agreement has been signed by Bahrain and the United States, and free-trade agreements do not allow the implementation of boycotts," Shaikh Mohammad said, referring to a decades-old Arab boycott against Israel.

Shaikh Mohammad said a normalisation of diplomatic ties with Israel was not "on the table currently".

Bahrain last year signed the trade deal with the United States, the first between Washington and a Gulf Arab state. Business groups have urged the US Congress to approve the agreement by the end of 2005.