Saudi Arabia breaks off diplomatic ties with Iran

Saudi Arabia says it has broken off diplomatic ties with Iran, amid a row over the Saudi execution of a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was speaking after demonstrators had stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others were executed on Saturday. Saudi Arabia found them guilty of “terrorism”. Mr Jubeir said that all Iranian diplomats must leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours.

The move came as Iran’s top leader warned Saudi Arabia of “divine revenge” over the execution of the opposition Shi’ite cleric.

Riyadh has accused Tehran of supporting terrorism, after protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital.

Saudi Arabia announced the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday along with 46 others, including three other Shi’ite dissidents and a number of al Qaeda militants. It was largest mass execution carried out by the kingdom in three and a half decades.

Sheikh al-Nimr was a central figure in protests by Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority until his arrest in 2012, and his execution drew condemnation from Shi’ites across the region. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the execution in a statement on his website, saying Sheikh al-Nimr “neither invited people to take up arms nor hatched covert plots.

“The only thing he did was public criticism.”

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Saudi Arabia’s “medieval act of savagery” in executing the cleric would lead to the “downfall” of the country’s monarchy.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said that by condemning the execution, Iran had “revealed its true face represented in support for terrorism”.

The statement accused Tehran of “blind sectarianism” and said that “by its defence of terrorist acts” Iran is a “partner in their crimes in the entire region”.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are locked in a bitter rivalry, and support opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

The cleric’s execution could also complicate Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the Shiite-led government in Iraq.

One of the 47 executed Adel al-Dhubaiti, was convicted over a 2004 attack on journalists in Riyadh including Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers.


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