Friday 19 January 2018

Iran 'regrets' attacks on Saudi Arabian diplomatic missions

Iranian demonstrators burn representations of the US and Israeli flags in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran (AP)
Iranian demonstrators burn representations of the US and Israeli flags in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran (AP)

Iran has expressed "regret" over two attacks on Saudi Arabian diplomatic missions and says it will spare no effort in arresting and prosecuting those responsible.

Iran's United Nations envoy Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon that the Islamic Republic "will take necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future".

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran on Sunday after protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashad. The violence stems from Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent opposition Shiite cleric over the weekend, which predominantly Shiite Iran has denounced.

Mr Khoshroo said more than 40 protesters at the embassy have been arrested and handed over to judicial authorities and investigators are seeking other possible perpetrators.

In a letter circulated to all 193 UN member nations, Mr Khoshroo said Iran supports the Vienna conventions on the protection of diplomats and diplomatic property.

The statement came after allies of Saudi Arabia followed the kingdom's lead and scaled back diplomatic ties to Iran.

Sudan and Bahrain said they would sever ties with Tehran, and within hours, the United Arab Emirates announced it would downgrade ties to Tehran to the level of the charge d'affaires, while other nations issued statements criticising Iran.

The concerted campaign by Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia highlights the aggressive stance King Salman and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have adopted in confronting Iran, a long-time regional rival.

"What we have seen during the last 24 hours is unprecedented. It shows you Saudi Arabia has had enough of Iran and wants to send a message," said Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political science professor at Emirates University. "This is the Saudis saying, 'There is no limit to how far we will go'."

The stand-off began on Saturday when Saudi Arabia executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror charges - the largest mass execution carried out by the kingdom since 1980.

Mr al-Nimr was a central figure in the Arab Spring-inspired protests by Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority, who long denied advocating violence. News of his execution has sparked Shiite protests from Bahrain to Pakistan.

In Iran, protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad. By late Sunday, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the kingdom would sever its relations with Iran over the assaults, giving Iranian diplomatic personnel 48 hours to leave his country.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia's civil aviation authority suspended all flights to and from Iran, saying the move was based on the kingdom's cutting of diplomatic ties.

Press Association

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