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4 January 2016

Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with Iran

Saudi Arabia has given Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country, after its embassy was attacked following the execution of a Shia religious figure.

By Stephanie Boland

Saudi Arabia has severed its diplomatic ties with Iran after its embassy was attacked on Saturday during protests in Tehran.

The protests came in response to Saudi Arabia’s execution of 47 people on terrorism charges, including Nimr al-Nimr, a Shia religious figure who was critical of the Saudi Arabian government.

Iran’s supreme leader has called for “divine vengeance” for the execution, and protestors set Saudi Arabia’s Tehran embassy alight.

Nimr had previously studied theology in Iran. He accepted the political charges against him, but denied the suggestion he had ever carried arms or stoked violence.

Tehran has accused Saudi Arabia of using the attack on its embassy to fuel tensions after Iranian diplomats were given 48 hours to leave the country.

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A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, has said that Saudi Arabia “thrives on tensions”, while Iran “is committed to provide diplomatic security based on international conventions”, according to televised comments reported by Al Jazeera.

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There are fears the move will further destabilise the region after reports of Sunni mosques being attacked in Iraq as gunmen opened fire on police officers in Nimr’s home village.

Now read Michael Axworthy on how sectarian rifts help to fuel conflict in the Middle East.