Saudi Arabia ‘can’t cover up cleric execution’ says Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s president has said that Saudi Arabia cannot “cover up” its crime of executing a leading Shi’ite cleric by severing diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.

President Hassan Rouhani’s comments came as Kuwait announced it had recalled its ambassador to Iran over attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic.

The execution last weekend of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shi’ite cleric and opposition figure in Saudi Arabia, has heightened the Saudi-Iran regional rivalry, threatening to derail already shaky peace efforts over the wars in Syria and Yemen.

A statement posted on his official website said Rouhani discussed the dispute with visiting Danish foreign minister Kristian Jensen.

“The Saudi government has taken a strange action and cut off its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to cover its crimes of beheading a religious leader in its country,” Rouhani said.

“Undoubtedly, such actions can’t cover up that big crime.”

Iran vice-president Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said the country’s intelligence services were investigating the diplomatic mission attacks and that police officers who failed to take action to stop the assaults would be prosecuted.

Iranian police say at least 50 people have been arrested over the attack.

The diplomatic stand-off between Iran and the kingdom began Saturday, when Saudi Arabia executed al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror charges — the largest mass execution carried out by the kingdom since 1980.

Al-Nimr, a central figure in the Arab Spring-inspired protests by Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority, was executed after being convicted of sedition and of other crimes, though he long denied advocating violence.

News of his execution has sparked Shi’ite protests from Bahrain to Pakistan.

In Iran, protesters responded by attacking the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad.

Late on Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced it was severing relations with Iran because of the assaults, giving Iranian diplomatic personnel 48 hours to leave.

Sudan and Bahrain said on Monday they would sever ties with Iran.

The United Arab Emirates announced it would downgrade ties to Tehran.

Yesterday, Kuwait announced the recalling of its ambassador, but did not say it would sever ties to Iran.


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