Manama: Iran remains the major sponsor of terrorist militias in the region, participants at the Manama Dialogue 2017 have said, accusing Tehran of planting proxy forces in several areas to achieve its goals in spreading chaos, sectarianism and extremism.

“Iran has built a network of surrogates wherever it can in the region and beyond, reaching as far as West Africa and Latin America, and at any moment, it could call on its surrogates to violence and destruction,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, has said.. “We see this in Yemen clearly, we see it in Syria as well. And we continue to experience Iranian sabotage and terror in our own country. When we look at Iran, we see a stark difference between Iran as a country with a proud people and a rich culture and history and the Islamic Republic as a regime, that impedes the progress of Iran and prioritises regional expansion to the welfare of their own people,” he said as he addressed the Manama Dialogue, an international security conference held annually in Bahrain.

Shaikh Khalid deplored the missed opportunities and “what might have been and what could be achieved in terms of economic, trade, and cultural ties.”

“Should Iran stop attempting to export its revolution and return to the fold of responsible members of the international community, the entire region will benefit,” he said.

The foreign minister, who was speaking at a plenary session on Saturday, said that Iran “continues to train operatives to undertake terrorist acts in Bahrain, and in Kuwait, along with smuggling weapons and explosives and stashing them in the neighbourhoods.” “We cannot stand by while an armed and dangerous terrorist organization has its way in country after country, and we continue to urge all our friends and allies to recognise Hezbollah for what it really is, a terrorist organization,” he said at the conference organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

In his opening address, Sir John Jenkins, Executive Director, IISS-Middle East, said that the rise of Iran and the emergence of radical Islamist ideologies were the most significant developments in the Middle East in the past 30 years.

Throughout the two-day conference, terrorism and Cybersecurity were addressed as the top priority for combating terrorism and extremism amid calls to change the focus from traditional political and military solutions in the to eliminate them.

In the final session of the security conference on Sunday, experts highlighted cyber domain as a particularly important battleground.

The conference also saw several calls from different countries for the building of collaborative partnerships and open dialogues to foster prosperity in the region and across the world.