The move by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry is likely to ratchet up tensions between the small island nation — which is ruled by a Sunni monarchy and is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet — and Shiite powerhouse Iran and its allies.
The group last month called for a boycott of goods from Iran, which has criticized the crackdown by Bahrain's government on Shiite protesters demanding greater rights. Shiites account for 70 percent of Bahrain's population, but complain of widespread discrimination that includes being excluded from top political or military posts.
In freezing ties, the chamber said it acted to highlight its displeasure toward "some countries that have intervened in the kingdom's affairs during its crisis," according to a report on the official Bahrain News Agency.
But it's unclear what practical impact a boycott would bring. The countries are not among Bahrain's top trading partners, although Iran has stepped up efforts to greater commercial ties.
The chamber specifically blamed Iran for "continued interference" and criticized groups in Lebanon for creating "an atmosphere of chaos and tension and division among the people" — an apparent reference to Hizbullah.
Backers of Iraq's Shiite-led government also have expressed support for Bahrain's protesters.
Bahrain's minority Sunni rulers and their Gulf Arab allies have accused Iran of fueling and seeking to benefit from the unrest. Tehran denies the charges.
At least 30 people have been killed since protests broke out in February, and hundreds of demonstrators have been detained.
The London-based rights group Amnesty International has urged Bahrain's king to overturn the death sentences against two people arrested during the protests.
The sentences were upheld by a special closed-door appeals court presided over by military and civilian judges on Sunday. The defendants were convicted of killing two policemen during a government crackdown on the unrest in March.
A top official said this week that 515 detainees have been released since martial law-style emergency powers were put in place during the crackdown. Although the government has lifted some restrictions such as an overnight curfew, rights groups say the government continues to intimidate and silence those it sees as a threat to its more than 200-year rule.
Mazen Mahdi, a Bahraini journalist who works for the German news service DPA, was briefly detained by Bahraini authorities Sunday, the press agency said Tuesday. Mahdi, who also works as a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency, said he was abused while in custody for about two hours, according to DPA spokesman Christian Roewekamp.
A government spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
A Reuters correspondent was expelled by Bahrain earlier this month after officials complained about the news agency's reporting in the kingdom.(AP)